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Libyan Writer Ghoma

Wednesday, 28 December, 2005


By: Ghoma

        Let me start by making two disclaimers and and two observations: first I'm against Capital punishment; and second, I don't have faith in the current regime's handling of justice. This said, the Aids' case is first a condemnation to the ruling regime and second a shameful stain on all those involved in the health system in the country of not making sure a minimum of decorum is maintained.

        The decision of the Libyan Supreme Court on the 25 of December to overturn the death sentences of a lower court against the 6 health providers implicated with injecting 426 children with virus AIDS back in 1998 at the Children Hospital of Benghazi. The Palestinian doctor and the 5 Bulgarian nurses, in a prolonged court proceedings held in that city in 2004, were found guilty as charged and were sentenced with the maximum penalty: death by firing squad.

        The case as unfolded has left more questions unanswered than the suit demanded. Is it a case of negligence and professional incompetence or an intentional and malicious act of injury? If it's the first part then the sentences should have charged the whole health system of the country, and its ability to provide a decent health care but also to do it with a minimum of acceptable standards of professional competence and hygienic and otherwise measures, through the individuals assigned to the management of its workings, up the chain of command, with failures to discharge their duties in the best of their abilities as established under the current operative procedures of both regulatory codes and professional ethical etiquettes. If it's the second part, then the onus is on the court to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused were consciously and intentionally used the contaminated syringes to inject the virus into the children's blood streams. Not only these practitioners betrayed their Hippocrates' oath, "do no harm," but also all the human moral achievements in the last ten thousand years. If that's so, it's neither in the interests of Libya nor for that matter any other place on earth, to defend such monstrous beasts who turned their backs on what makes us humans! Notwithstanding the many countries, organizations, and individuals whose consciences and stands against capital punishment in general were disturbed, the request for leniency is a legitimate and valid petition. But the whole world, including the Europeans, the Americans and whoever else has been touched by the case, should all have taken a deep breath and thanked Libya for ferreting out such individuals, according to the Libyan saw: "The croaking of a devil makes life easier for the angels".

        The case lost its autonomy and got out of the courts' jurisdiction when it became an international hot potato. All, including the Libyan state, were, still are, using a humanitarian case as a bargaining horse, for otherwise perhaps legitimate grievances, but nonetheless out of the bounds, first of all of the rules of decency and second for the care under which professional competence and the discharge of it takes precedence over any other concern. This horse trading wouldn't serve the cause of justice nor consoles the victims and their families' agonies. If justice to be served at all, certainly will not be by the acrobatics of international diplomacy to find a face-saving mechanism through which the accused get off the hook and the Libyan state gets its rewards for buckling under the pressure. What kind of a world we're living in? How could anyone dares to ask for petition before making sure that justice and in this case is more than meting punishment (is also making sure that those to whom we trust our lives in their hands are not only competent enough but individuals of the highest moral and ethical conduct!), it's about professional responsibilities.

        The whole lot who's involved in this case is tainted in one way or the other with either cowardice, unprofessional conduct, incompetence, etc. starting with judges at all levels if they've acted beyond the concern of justice, but particularly those of the Supreme Court, who have found the proceedings of the lower court lacking, if they did under any form of pressures or dissuasions and have buckled under such expected political middlings -only history will tell- without any form of protest, as for example resigning or making sure that their side of the verdict is heard, then all of the Libyans, indeed with the rest of humanity will shame them for the rest of their physical lives through eternity. These individuals deserve our contempt and are disgrace to the robes they put on and indeed to the notion of justice as any decent human expects it to be applied and discharged with.

        As to the accused, the health professionals, at minimum they're guilty of negligence and unprofessional carrying of their duties. They must have known that in the age of AIDS using unclean syringes -anything which been used just once on another human or animal for that matter without making absolutely sure that has been cleaned and sterilized- is equivalent to an act of homicide! No physician or a nurse in this world doesn't know that passing human fluids from one to another is also passing whatever one has to the other -we're talking about infectious diseases here! So with that in mind, they cannot be completely innocent. As a minimum, if they couldn't control the environment around them, they should have refused to use a contaminated instrument whatsoever, even under threat of death, not to say firing. A professional, true to his art or science, must know the redlines beyond which practicing becomes dangerous, just like any other double-edged sword..

        This case, as I premised my remarks, is more than punishment. It's about individual and institutional responsibilities. As for the institutions we they're rotten! The rest, from the judges, down the chain of command, to the health practitioners and their superiors; all these individuals must be held accountable for, first the lives of the infected children, and second for the quality of the health system under their care. This case is contagious -no pun intended. It touches whoever comes its way, at any level and from any persuasion. No one who's directly or indirectly involved in it or is interfering with it, is going to be looked at, by history and human common decency favorably. It's as the Libyan proverbial saying: "the donkey skinner always ends up with neither meat nor good smell". So at this point one urges everybody to back off and let the wheels of justice grind freely to move wherever the facts of the case might take them. If the world community -actually the hypocritic of Western Europe and North America- thinks Libya's court system is unqualified in any manner, shape or form, to adjudicate the case, then the case should be relocated to where is deemed appropriate. But justice has to prevail. For the victims, all Libyans, indeed the whole of the human race, demand it.


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