December 22nd, 2006 12:02 EST
Annan deeply concerned at Libyan death sentences for foreign health workers
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced his deep concern at the death sentence imposed by a Libyan court on five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor for the alleged intentional transmission of HIV/AIDS to hundreds of children.
“I was greatly encouraged by the glimpse of hope offered by the appeals process and by the way the international community had recently come together to provide treatment and medicines to the infected children,” he said in a statement, referring to a Libyan Supreme Court’s order for a retrial after an earlier death sentence.
“I am deeply concerned by confirmation of a guilty verdict and a death sentence and, therefore, appeal to the Libyan and the international community to continue working together in a spirit of reconciliation. Once again, I offer the support of the United Nations in all efforts to address the needs of the infected children and to find a humane solution for the fate of the medics,” he added.
The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) earlier this week called on the Libyan courts to review the death sentence 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,” it said.
“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.
The six health care workers, imprisoned since 1999, are accused of deliberately infecting 426 children whilst working at a hospital in Benghazi. Since 1999, 52 of the children have died.