UN AIDS programme calls on Libya to review death sentences on foreign health workers
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has called on Libyan courts to review the death sentence imposed on five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor for the alleged intentional transmission of HIV to hundreds of children in light of evidence showing that the virus circulated before the health workers’ arrival.
“UNAIDS is concerned that certain scientific evidence appears to have not been taken into consideration and that this raises serious doubts regarding the conclusion reached by the court,” UNAIDS said in a news release.
“As published in the scientific journal Nature, an analysis of HIV and hepatitis virus samples taken from some of the children concluded that the HIV viral strains were circulating in the hospital where the children were treated before the nurses and doctor arrived in March 1998,” it added.
“UNAIDS urges that the present decision be reviewed, and that due weight be given to this evidence and all other available scientific evidence related to the case.”
The six health care professionals, imprisoned since 1999, are accused of deliberately infecting 426 children with HIV whilst working at a hospital in Benghaz. Since 1999, 52 of the children found to be infected have died. UNAIDS expressed “its deep concern and empathy” for the children and their families and urged the Libyan Government and international partners to ensure that treatment, care and support are provided.
“By ensuring that the relevant scientific evidence is fully considered in the judicial process, by providing due process for the accused, and by providing treatment, care and support to the children and their families, the Government of Libya will ensure that the human rights of all are respected,” UNAIDS said.