Monday, April 08, 2013

8-Apr-13: Medical professionals thinking of working in the world's most expensive open-air prison may want to think again

South African websites and news channels (like TimesLive)
are reporting on the "global fallout" from the Karabus case. We
think they have an optimistic view of how much the authorities in the
UAE even care.
Regular readers of this blog will have followed our numerous postings here about the unresolved drama of a retired South African oncologist entrapped in the medieval law-order-and-blood-money system of the United Arab Emirates. 
For a summary: "21-Mar-13: Is Prof Karabus finally being released and going home?"; "29-Jan-13: UAE "Justice" officials fiddle: The scandalous treatment of Prof. Karabus goes on and on"; and "1-Jan-13: Prof. Cyril Karabus faces his thirteenth hearing in a United Arab Emirates court tomorrow". 
Though never actually put on trial in the way most people would understand the word, Prof. Cyril Karabus was convicted in his absence, without any knowledge of the existence of the absurd charges, more than a decade ago. In August 2012, entirely unaware of the danger, he was seized at Dubai airport when, as an airline passenger passing through on Emirates, he was traveling home to SA from the wedding of his son in Canada. He was immediately arrested and put in prison.

Since then, the experiences to which the distinguished doctor, 77 years old at the time of the arrest, has been subjected have gone from bad to scandalous to outrageous. It could have been scripted by Franz Kafka.

He has been held by the UAE authorities against his will for eight months so far. Initially this was in a bare Abu Dhabi prison cell within a particularly notorious prison. After numerous frustrated attempts to secure bail in court, he was eventually released from prison after two months minus his confiscated passport. He was ordered not to leave the UAE and required by force of law to remain as an involuntary paying visitor and separated from his family in what is probably the world's most expensive open-air prison.

Since his well-being depends in some measure on the goodwill of the government of South Africa, we will refrain here from analyzing what was and was not done to represent his cause on a government-to-government basis. The bottom line: he is still there, held against his will, and burning through his dwindling resources.

Some weeks ago, the sole tribunal of fact in this case - some kind of medical committee appointed by some kind of authority and with the court's knowledge - came back to the court with a finding, somewhat delayed after months of investigation but a finding in every sense of the word. Their conclusion: Prof. Karabus is absolved of all blame for the death of the terminally-ill child he had treated in an Abu Dhabi hospital 13 years earlier. Case closed.

But unfortunately it was not closed. Instead of grabbing the opportunity to climb down from the tree, the Abu Dhabi authorities - having led no evidence, having conceded that the original medical file cannot be found, having essentially incarcerated an innocent man with a proud career of saving children's lives on the flimsiest of bases for months, availed themselves of the technical right to appeal against the court's finding of innocent.

In a more-normal, due-process-oriented democratic society with a free press and responsible, elected political leadership (we are obviously not referring to Abu Dhabi or Dubai or any other corner of the UAE), the much-aggrieved Prof. Karabus would have been given back his passport the same day along with profound apologies and a complementary pass to Dubai airport's most VIP lounge.

Instead, the man continues to be the victim of a disgraceful abuse of power. The UAE authorities presiding over it and making capricious and unchecked decisions at every step bear most of the responsibility. But given the honor-based culture in which they operate, it does no one much good to focus on what has gone wrong there.

This is, after all, happening in the UAE, officially classified by The Economist's Democracy Index 2012 as an authoritarian regime and ranked 19th from the bottom out of a list of 167 countries. Its overall Democracy Index score of 2.58 positions it just ahead of Zimbabwe and behind Afghanistan. Nice neighbourhood!

So what can be done? The World Medical Association says it is doing what it can.
Global fallout over Karabus | April 8 2013 at 09:52 am | Caryn Dolley, Cape Times | In an unprecedented move triggered by the Cyril Karabus case, the World Medical Association (WMA) will advise physicians around the globe about the risks of working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It has encouraged its 102 member countries to do the same in a decision made at a WMA council meeting in Bali late last week. At first, the SA Medical Association (Sama) pushed for the world association to call for health workers to boycott the UAE, but it settled on the advisory instead... On Sunday, in a phone interview with the Cape Times, Karabus said he was set to appear in a UAE court again on Tuesday. He said he had been told about the WMA advisory and while he hoped it would have an impact, he did not believe it would affect UAE authorities. “I don’t think they care … I don’t think they’ll take too much notice,” Karabus said. He believed a call for medics to boycott the UAE would have been more effective and possibly make authorities take note. [Mzukisi Grootboom of the South African Medical Association] said even though the WMA did not agree to the boycott of the UAE, the advisory to physicians about the risks of working there was a step forward. The WMA had agreed to (a) Publish the advisory on its website. (b) Alert its 102 member countries, spread across North and South America, west and east Europe, Asia and some African countries, of the advisory. (c) Publish the advisory in the World Medical Journal. On Sunday, Karabus’s South African lawyer Michael Bagraim said he had been receiving e-mails from medical associations “across the globe”. He said if Karabus was detained even longer, it could seriously impact on health workers travelling to the UAE. “It looks very strongly that doctors worldwide would boycott going there,” Bagraim said. [Cape Times]
The South African media, reporting on the medical conference decision, are calling it a global fallout. We of course wish them well with their efforts, but if the aim is to bring pressure on Abu Dhabi and Dubai, then they need to understand how the darker and more repressive corners of the Arab world work. After diligent searching, how many news channels in the Arab world in general and in the UAE in particular have even reported on the World Medical Association's Karabus-inspired 'advisory'? Answer: Not one as of today. (And if we are wrong on this, we will be delighted to hear from you.)

Health professionals attracted by the shine and glitz of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and by jobs promoted on sites like this, thisthis and this should be warned ahead of time about just how different the UAE and its authoritarian regimes are from the world they know.


Anonymous said...

Prof Karabus has been tried and acquitted in record time.

The criminal justice systems in Israel and/or South Africa would- I suggest- be simply unable to set aside an in absentia conviction, grant bail, re-file an indictment, move to consider expert investigation, try and acquit an accused physician as well as deal with all the detailed stuff which all trials have on a 10 year old case- within this timescale. If I am wrong please provide one example of this happening-just one- in Israel or South Africa or indeed in any jurisdiction anywhere. Surely there must be a South African or Israeli lawyer out there who could put me straight?

I am also wondering how many times you will repeat items connected with this case that just aren't true and/or have never been argued by the Karabus defence team. For example, the PP did produce evidence- the statement of a nurse and an Egyption forensic examiner in support of the forgery allegation. I have no way of knowing how cogent this evidence was but it is evidence of some weight-albeit far from incontovertible.

Due process also permits the PP to appeal just as it does in every civilised jurisdiction. Fact.

The Karabus case will not stop the thousands of expatriate physicians that come to work and live in UAE- who never see the inside of a courtroom- let alone a prison cell- and who provide skilfull, compassionate care to Arab, Jew and Christian alike and amass the type of capital that other physicians from their home countries -burdened by crippling taxes (and tragic crime rates)- can only be envious of. Fact.

If any physician is nervous about the legal and regulatory regime that physicians are required to observe- then let them stay at home. I suggest that they and you may like to visit the websites of Dubai Health Authority and the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi who have published all relevant laws and regulations - in English-that any physician should be aware of. Maybe the thousands of physicians already in UAE have -as sensible scientifically trained and well-educated professionals- already done so and applied their own personal risk assessment criteria and decided to make the move anyway? Wouldn't any prudent professional do so?

Now given the base from where you proceed I do not expect you to bother to rise to the challenge that I have set- you are clearly a damaged, bitter and bigotted person although given the history of your family- I fully understand why you are the way you are. Confronted with the same tragedy- I would be exactly the same- of that there is no doubt. However as a lawyer with considerable experience of systems of justice in UAE and UK I am forced to reject your criticisms of the handling of the Karabus case as un-informed and inaccurate.

This Ongoing War said...

1. Forgive us for being skeptical about your standing as a lawyer. Your comments don't match the self-description.
2. Both the bloggers on this site are lawyers with decades of experience.
3. If we are "clearly damaged, bitter and bigoted" as you say, it's possible the World Medical Association and the New York Times are too.
4. In fact, our outlook is generous and open-minded, even to people who throw unsupported claims bordering on nonsense into a public discussion.
5. If you can find another legal system that would countenance the endless adjournments (because papers are 'missing'); enter a conviction in the absence of evidence that papers were served on the accused; keep a man of 78 against his will and under house arrest, minus his passport, for eight months (ignoring the two months he spent in a notorious cement cell of an actual prison); and allow an appeal - and with no appeal papers served on the accused - on the basis that the only substantive question of fact had already been determined by a committee of experts, and while holding the accused against his will far from his home; then we will assume you must be referring to yet another of the authoritarian, opaque, oil-drenched sheikdoms of the UAE.

Greg said...

Oh, Now I understand. The appeal is part of a Jihad, and has nothing to do with the facts or lack thereof concerning Prof Karabus. Why did the judge not just say this in the first place, instead of leaving the World to wonder how the Dubai Justice system works?

This Ongoing War said...

"Greg", your comment is somewhat bizarre. If you have a point to make, our readers might be interested in hearing it. You will need to include your email address or your web/blog if you respond.