Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at d.butler@nature.com

October 4, 2006

AAAS issues alert on Tripoli Six

Filed under: HIV,Justice,Libya — admin @ 5:50 pm

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Program has just released this urgent alert to its extensive human rights network on the news developments on the case described here. Their appeal page also contains a useful letter generating tool.
The AAAS has taken an active interest in this case in the past, and it is good to see it weighing in again, as it has significant clout. Other scientific human rights organizations tell me that they will also be shortly issuing renewed alerts. I will keep you posted.

The full text is appended below:

AAAS Science and Human Rights Program

View Alerts By > Case | Date | Country | Victim

AAAS Human Rights Action Network
Date: 4 October 2006
Case Number: li0403_med
Victims: Valya Georgieva Chervenyashka; Snezhanka Ivanova Dimitrova; Ashraf Ahmad Jum’a; Nasya Stojcheva Nenova; Valentina Manolova Siropulo; Kristiana Malinova Valcheva
Country: Libya
Subject: Lawyers for medical workers plea for independent scientific assessment
Issues: Freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Right to a fair and impartial trial; Threat of long-term imprisonment or capital punishment
Type of alert: Update
Related alerts: 24 May 2004; 7 November 2005; 10 January 2006

FACTS OF THE CASE:
The retrial of the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted of deliberately infecting Libyan children with HIV is expected to end in November, and the attorneys defending the medical workers believe that they will be found guilty again. The defense attorneys are therefore expecting to make a final appeal to the Supreme Court, and believe that their chances of winning the case are slim unless international pressure forces the court to order an independent scientific assessment.

The five Bulgarian nurses – Valya Georgieva Chervenyashka, Snezhanka Ivanova Dimitrova, Nasya Stojcheva Nenova, Valentina Manolova Siropulo, and Kristiana Malinova Valcheva – and the Palestinian doctor – Ashraf Ahmad Jum’a – were working at a hospital in Benghazi in 1998. In 1999, they were arrested, along with several other medical professionals. The nine Libyans who worked at the same hospital were acquitted.

Expert witnesses, including Dr. Luc Montagnier, the researcher who first isolated the HIV virus, testified that the children’s infections were caused by poor hygiene at the hospital and not an international conspiracy or deliberate actions on the part of the nurses and doctors as the prosecution has claimed. Furthermore, experts assert that the infection already had emerged before the accused started working at the hospital, and continued to spread after they were arrested. However, in the current trial, the testimony of those experts was thrown out by the court with the explanation that a team of Libyan doctors had reached the opposite conclusions. Because the expert testimony was thrown out by the court, it cannot be resubmitted in a subsequent trial.

Although the Bulgarian nurses signed confessions, they claim the confessions were extracted under torture. Torture methods reported to Amnesty International included electric shocks; being suspended by the arms; being blindfolded and threatened with attack by barking dogs; and beatings, including falaqa (beatings on the soles of the feet), and being beaten with electric cables. The nurses and doctor have been imprisoned for seven years.

The lawyers for the medical workers are appealing to the scientific community to pressure the court to order a new, independent scientific assessment of the cause of the HIV infections in the Libyan children.

(Sources of information for this case include: CNN International, The Gulf Times, News24, Sofia Echo, the Kaiser Network, and Nature.)

RELEVANT HUMAN RIGHTS STANDARDS

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

* Article 10: All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
* Article 7: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
* Article 9(3): Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

* Article 05: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
* Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his [or her] rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him [or her].

RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Please send faxes, letters, or emails:

* Commending the Libyan Supreme Court for overturning the death sentence of the five Bulgarian nurses Kristiana Malinova Valcheva, Nasya Stojcheva Nenova, Valentina Manolova Siropulo, Valya Georgieva Chervenyashka and Snezhanka Ivanova Dimitrova, and Palestinian doctor, Ashraf Ahmad Jum’a;
* Expressing your extreme concern over reports that the medical workers were subject to torture while in detention; and
* Requesting that the court order an independent scientific assessment as to the cause of the HIV infections in the children.

Compose a letter of appeal to:

APPEAL AND INQUIRY MESSAGES SHOULD BE SENT TO:

His Excellency Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi
Leader of the Revolution
Office of the Leader of the Revolution
Tripoli
Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
LIBYA
Salutation: Your Excellency

His Excellency Muhammad Misrati
Secretary of the People’s Committee for Justice and General Security
Secretariat of the People’s Committee for Justice and General Security
Tripoli
Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Libya
Salutation: Your Excellency

Dr. Muhammad ‘Abduallah al-Harari
Secretary for Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the General Peoples’ Congress
P.O. Box 84662
Tripoli
Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
LIBYA
Salutation: Dr. Abduallah al-Harari

Mr. Ali Suleiman Aujali
Minister
Libyan Liaison Office
2600 Virginia Ave. NW
Suite 705
Washington, DC 20037
Fax: 202-944-9606
Salutation: Mr. Minister

Please send copies of your appeals and any responses you may receive, or direct any questions you may have, to Jana Asher, AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, 1200 New York Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20005; tel. 202-326-6604; e-mail jasher@aaas.org; or fax 202-289-4950.

The keys to effective appeals are to be courteous and respectful, accurate and precise, impartial in approach, and as specific as possible regarding the alleged violation and the international human rights standards and instruments that apply to the situation. Reference to your scientific organization and professional affiliation always is helpful.

To ensure that appeals are current and credible, please do not continue to write appeals on this case after 90 days from the date of the AAASHRAN posting unless an update has been issued.

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