Thursday, January 31, 2013

31-Jan-13: UAE's foreign ministry is "closely following" Prof. Karabus' nightmare

A question:

Have you noticed how it is that when you personally know something about an event or a person, and then that event or person is written up in a newspaper article or a TV program, and you read it or watch it, and you sit there pretty much amazed that the people at the newspaper or TV program have misconstrued or completely misrepresented the facts and turned the thing that you know entirely on its head and gotten really important parts wrong or failed to say things that are so important that without telling them the whole narrative makes no sense?

Yes, so have we, again and again.

Why do we ask? First, because we know from checking our visitors' log that there are many South Africans (but not so many from Dubai and Abu Dhabi) who have been reading our blog in recent weeks to get updated on the scandalous way in which the distinguished paediatric oncologist, Prof. Cyril Karabus from Capetown, is being treated by the justice and law enforcement officials in the United Arab Emirates where he has been held prisoner since August.

And since they (and our regular readers) know something about the outrageous treatment to which this frail 78 year old with a decades-long history of saving children's lives has been subjected, we want them to see the way in which the UAE's government - in perhaps the first public indication that it holds a viewpoint on the Karabus scandal - recounts what has been happening.

So here's our point. If you go to the website of the foreign ministry of the United Arab Emirates right now [here it is], you will see the following report which appears, as well, on the ministry's home page as part of a series of revolving stories right at the top. (In other words, for some reason they really want people to know what we are about to show you.)


Here's the full and unedited text:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is closely following the case of the South African oncologist | 30 January 2013 | The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is closely following the case of Professor Cyril Karabus, the South African oncologist accused of causing a young girl’s death by failing to give her a blood transfusion whilst undergoing treatment at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.
Professor Karabus is also accused of forging a medical report. Professor Karabus was originally tried in absentia in 2004 and found guilty.
Following his arrest that original ruling was overturned in order that he stand trial in person.
Seems like a fair enough representation of reality, right? No, it's not.

The people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are closely following this could have mentioned but did not that Prof. Karabus had never been informed of any criminal charges laid against him, had therefore never been given an opportunity to defend his good name and was never informed that a UAE sharia court had  convicted him on charges of forgery (forgery!) and offences connected with the death of a three-year-old terminally ill patient from Yemen back in the year 2000. Flying back home to South Africa after his son's wedding in Canada in August 2013, he was taken from the transit lounge at Dubai airport by UAE police to a notorious prison and locked up there for eight weeks. He made multiple applications for bail and was refused multiple times until it was granted eight weeks after his arrest. His passport remains with the law enforcement officials of the UAE so that they can ensure the pensioner with a heart pacemaker cannot easily flee. He remains a prisoner of the UAE until today. The court that has control of his criminal trial has adjourned the matter 16 times so far. Instead of letting him go home on the basis that the prosecution has been completely unable to prove its case against him or show him the medical file on the basis of which the charges were presented, he was informed two days ago [see our report] that this Kafkaesque nightmare goes on, and the next hearing,  postponed yet again, is set for February 27.

The details of this intersection between a decent and heroic man's life and the law and order system of the United Arab Emirates could - and surely will - fill books, magazine articles and television programs once he is out and free.

Meanwhile, even before he is set free, we feel a moral obligation to highlight several aspects of this shocking affair in the hope that there will be an uproar against the people responsible.
  1. The British Medical Association published an angry letter of protest dated December 14, 2012 and sent to the Minister of Justice in Abu Dhabi. The full text is here. It ends with this demand: "As the prosecution is unable to present any substantive evidence against Prof Karabus, he should be released from effective detention immediately and all charges dropped. In our view continuing effectively to detain Prof Karabus in these circumstances amounts to a fundamental violation of Prof Karabus’ human rights, and any trial in these circumstances will fail to meet international standards of fairness and would lead to widespread condemnation."
  2. A published advice [here] from the South African Medical Association (SAMA) reminds medical professionals that the UAE is 'heavily dependent' on foreign doctors to support its healthcare system. The ongoing incarceration of the distinguished Prof. Karabus is a reminder to its members to 'think carefully' before working in the UAE. SAMA suggested a global professional boycott of countries "which treat health professionals in such a manner". 
  3. Qantas, Australia's international airline, is about to merge a significant part of its global operations with Emirates, a UAE airline. Australians transiting through Dubai in the future, en route to Europe and London ought to know something about the risks they face, as exemplified by the nightmare inflicted on Prof. Karabus. If it can happen to a man in his late seventies in poor health and with his proud achievements, it can certainly happen to the rest of us.
  4. As we mentioned in a previous posting, a South  African publication called The Daily Maverick reported back in November that the Karabus family had asked Emirates, the UAE airline, to consider funding tickets for them to travel to Prof. Karabus in Abu Dhabi as a goodwill gesture and to make it a little easier for them to give him the support he needs. Emirates declined, saying: “This is a legal issue being dealt with by the relevant authorities and does not involve Emirates.” It's a point that Qantas passengers and management might want to take on board and ponder.
If anyone from, or on behalf of, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates has looked closely into these aspects too, and has an opinion they are willing to share with us, we will be glad to provide them with a global platform right here.

Some of our previous posts about this painful subject for your further reading:
26-Sep-12: Dubai, Dubai, Dubai

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