Sunday, February 15, 2004

The Ever-Charming Muammar Gaddafi

Via AfricaPundit, I came across this depressing article about the Libya we are currently so generously extending olive branches to.

A trial in Libya of seven expatriate health workers accused of deliberately infecting 400 children with HIV enters its final phase this week, as the former pariah nation steps up efforts to improve its relations with the West.


A wave of infections among children in the public hospital in Benghazi came to light in 1998. The notion that foreign staff had deliberately infected the children, at least 43 of whom have since died, was apparently Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's idea.

At a conference on Aids in Nigeria in April 2001, the Libyan leader said of the epidemic: "It is an odious crime. We have found a doctor and a group of nurses in possession of HIV, who had been requested to do experiments on the effects of the virus on children. And who charged them with this odious conspiracy? Some say it was the CIA, others say it was Mossad."

The foreign health workers were first charged with "premeditated murder with the intention of undermining the Libyan state", an offence that carries the death penalty. The case was dismissed, but a new one was filed, charging the five Bulgarian nurses and two doctors, one Bulgarian and one Palestinian, with "provoking an Aids epidemic through the use of contaminated products", another capital crime.

A daughter of Zdravko Georgiev, the Bulgarian doctor, said: "My father was kept in total isolation for one year, in a cell one metre square without light. He was beaten and subjected to heavy psychological pressure.

Then he was transferred to a prison where 100 inmates were held in a single cell, without even space to sit. For one year he was not allowed a change of clothes." Two nurses who had confessed and then recanted said the confessions had been extracted from them through torture, which included electric shocks and beatings.

An eminent French Aids expert, Professor Luc Montagnier, told the court that the infection was caused by poor hygiene in the hospital. He pointed out that the epidemic had begun before the accused people started working there, and continued after their arrests. (emphases added)

None of this should come as a surprise. The notion that anyone in the Libyan leadership, let alone Gaddafi himself, would step forward to take responsibility, as would be expected in any decently ruled country, is simply absurd. Much easier to blame it all on a conspiracy by the usual suspects (Mossad or the CIA). This sort of scapegoating is par for the course in the Arab world, and if there weren't so few Arabs floating on so much oil, one would be hard-pressed to discern in what way most of these countries differed from those south of the Sahara developmentally. In any case, given the exploding populations of countries like Libya and Saudi Arabia, it won't take more than one or two more generations before their living standards collapse to sub-Saharan African levels.