Libyan HIV-Positive Children Accept $460M Compensation Package
Libyan HIV-Positive Children
The families of hundreds of HIV-positive children in Libya have accepted a compensation package of about $460 million, the Gaddafi Development Foundation confirmed on Sunday, AFP/Yahoo! Newsreports. The deal could lead to the lifting of the death sentence forsix medical workers convicted of intentionally infecting the childrenwith HIV, according to AFP/Yahoo! News (Lamloum, AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/15).
Thefive Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor in May 2004 weresentenced to death by firing squad for allegedly infecting 426 childrenwith HIV through contaminated blood products at Al Fateh Children'sHospital in Benghazi, Libya. They also were ordered to pay a total of$1 million to the families of the HIV-positive children. The LibyanSupreme Court in December 2005 overturned the medical workers'convictions and ordered a retrial in a lower court. A court in Tripoli,Libya, in December 2006 convicted the health workers and sentenced themto death. The medical workers then filed an appeal of the December 2006conviction with Libyan Supreme Court. The Supreme Court last weekupheld the conviction (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/11).
Salah Abdessalem -- director of the Gaddafi Development Foundation,which is headed by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Seif al-IslamGaddafi -- said that the families accepted the compensation package "inthe order of a million dollars for each victim." Libyan ForeignMinister Mohammed Abdel Rahman Shalgam last week said that under theagreement, some European countries, organizations and Libya will paycompensation to the families (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/15).According to Idriss Lagha, head of the Association for the Families ofHIV-Infected Children, the remission of Libyan debt to Bulgaria,Slovakia and several other Eastern European countries will contributeto the compensation package. Al-Islam Gaddafi added that othercountries involved are Croatia and the Czech Republic. "The finalsettlement is pending executive steps being taken, includingtransferring the money to the Benghazi International Fund," Lagha said.The fund was established in 2005 to prepare for such a compensationagreement, according to Lagha (El-Deeb, AP/International Herald Tribune,7/14). Shalgam said the amount of money in the fund ran into the"hundreds of millions of dollars" but would not provide a specificamount. The government, as the employer of the medical workers, isexpected to pay between $345,000 and $827,000 to the family of eachHIV-positive child, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News,7/15). Lagha on Tuesday said that 150 out of the approximately 400families have received monetary transfers, adding that he expects thefinancial settlement to be completed soon and that the families will"then issue a statement announcing that the settlement is done."
Governmentofficials from Bulgaria and other countries reportedly involved withthe compensation package all have denied that they are sending funds tothe families, according to the AP/PR-inside.com(El-Deeb, AP/PR-inside.com, 7/17). The European Commission on Mondayalso said that it is not involved with the agreement. "We were not partof the talks between" the Gaddafi Foundation and the families,Christiane Hohmann, the commission's spokesperson for externalrelations, said. Hohmann would not comment further on the agreement butadded that the commission will "continue to contribute" to the BenghaziInternational Fund (AFP/EU Business, 7/16).
Libya'sSupreme Judicial Council -- which can approve or cancel the SupremeCourt's conviction of the medical workers or issue a less serioussentence -- on Monday delayed it decision until at least Tuesday.According to the Los Angeles Times,the council delayed its decision as it waits for documents from thefamilies that would confirm they are withdrawing their demand that themedical workers be executed. Ramadan Fitouri, chair of the Associationfor the Families of HIV-Infected Children, on Monday said that some ofthe families "still insist on the execution of the accused" (Farley, Los Angeles Times,7/17). An unnamed source close to the negotiations on Tuesday said thatan agreement over the medical workers' sentences could be reachedTuesday evening. The families will release a statement on Tuesday"after completion of the deal to authorize the High Judicial Council totake the appropriate decision," the source said (Reuters/Independent Online, 7/17).
Two newspapers recently published editorials in response to the situation. Summaries appear below.
- Los Angeles Times:The Libya case -- which involves "false accusations, torture, kangarootrials and imprisonment" -- is the "stuff of horror stories," a Timeseditorial says. Although relations between Libya and the U.S. are"normalizing after decades of hostility," the medical workers' case has"slowed the process of reconciliation," and Muammar Gaddafi "woulddoubtless like to see it resolved," according to the editorial. The Timesadds that Libya is "no longer a pariah state," but its "disgracefultreatment of the foreign health workers makes it clear" that thecountry will have to be kept at "arm's length for some time to come" (Los Angeles Times, 7/14).
- New York Times: The Libya case has "reeked of scapegoating, showboating and blackmail" from the "outset," a Timeseditorial says. Muammar Gaddafi has "worked hard" in recent years to"shed his image as a dictatorial sponsor of terrorism," the editorialsays, adding that he "must understand that it is in his own interestnot to continue this travesty." The editorial concludes that "it wouldbe good if he also understood that the scourge of AIDS is far tooterrible to be used for a shakedown" (New York Times, 7/14).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.