Total Drek

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


In lieu of my planned post today, allow me to simply draw attention to the plight of the so-called Tripoli Six, six western medical professionals who have been held in Libya since approximately 1999. Why are they being held? Well, for allegedly deliberately infecting children with the HIV virus.

This case is a long and painful example of the intersection between politics, humanitarianism, and science. It has involved everything from accusations of a CIA and Mossad conspiracy to an attempt to use the trial to free the bomber of Pan Am Flight 103, to confessions obtained under torture.

What makes this whole trial so appalling is not simply the crime of which the Tripoli Six are accused or the incompetent nature of the proceedings, but that there is strong reason to believe that they are completely innocent. Most powerfully, recent research published in Nature strongly suggests that the children were infected long before the foreign medical workers arrived.* While dating the divergence of viral strains can be tricky, HIV's fast mutation rate makes it fairly easy and, indeed, it seems that the foreign medics cannot have been involved. Sadly, the Libyan government has chosen to ignore these findings.

And now, just today, we have received word that Libya has, once more, sentenced the medics to death:

A court convicted six foreign health workers Tuesday on charges of deliberately infecting 400 children with the AIDS virus and sentenced them to death, setting off shouts of joy in Tripoli.


The nurses and doctor have been in jail since 1999 on charges that they intentionally spread the AIDS virus to more than 400 children at a hospital in the city of Benghazi during a botched experiment to find a cure for the disease.

Western nations blame the infections on unsanitary conditions at Libyan hospitals and accuse Tripoli of using the six workers as scapegoats.

I am afraid we are very close to seeing these six individuals executed for, ultimately, public relations. And in response I frankly do not know what to say.

Sometimes injustice is so profound it simply strikes us dumb. This is one of those times.

* The truly interested in the audience can find the primary source here.


Blogger Practicing Idealist said...

What most bothers me about this story is why these 6 individuals were in Libya to start with. They went to give foreign aid. Again, they put their lives at risk (both their health and their physical safety more generally), to HELP other people. It is stories like this that scare away the people who could ultimately provide the most help. It is a very sad day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 12:00:00 PM  

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