Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
(01.02.13) "Justice delayed is justice denied" is a legal maxim meaning that victims of crime and those accused of crime deserve access to a speedy trial and, hopefully, resolution.
It has several possible origins, one of which is the Magna Carta, clause 40 which reads "To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice".
The case of Professor Cyril Karabus, detained in Dubai for the past five months, is an egregious example of justice delayed. Dr. Karabus, a respected pediatric oncologist, practiced for many years at the Red Cross Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa where he led the oncology unit. There he cared for and saved the lives of many children with serious diseases. Care that earned him the respect and affection of his patients and their families.
In 2002 during a five-week locum stint he worked at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Center in Abu Dhabi. There he treated a three year-old Yemeni girl with acute myeloid leukemia who unfortunately died.
After his locum he returned to Cape Town and never heard anything further. He was not informed and did not know that in 2003 he was tried and convicted in absentia of manslaughter for the death of the child, and sentenced to prison.
August 18, 2012 Dr. Karabus was arrested in Dubai while in transit to South Africa from a family wedding in Canada. Following arrest the 2003 verdict was set aside but he was recharged with manslaughter and held in prison.
After almost eight weeks and five court appearances, in each of which Dr. Karabus arrived in shackles, bail was granted October 11. He was required to remain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A panel of medical experts was appointed to consider the evidence. There have been several subsequent hearings scheduled but postponed. One of the stumbling blocks has been the inability of the prosecution to produce the original records in the case.
Dr. Karabus's lawyer Michael Bagraim calls it a "horror story". Records provided to the defense were incomplete. Missing were the crucial records during the week when Karabus was ministering and the child died.
Thursday, January 31, the case against Dr. Karabus was postponed for the 17th time until February 27. At that time, according to Mr. Bagaim, the judge is expected to withdraw a fraud charge and hear a request for the manslaughter charge to be withdrawn.
Dr. Karabus's case has drawn attention around the world.
The South Africa government has appealed repeatedly to the UAE government to expedite the case.
The World Medical Association (WMA) General Assembly in October 2012 called on the authorities of the United Arab Emirates to ensure that Professor Karabus is guaranteed a fair trial according to international standards, and has access to the relevant documents or information he may require to prepare his defense.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article in October with details of the case and headlined "The Imprisonment of Cyril Karabus is Deplorable".
The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has warned local health professionals against applying for positions in the UAE and similar countries. A formal statement to this effect from SAMA read:
"We advise South African doctors and other health professionals to avoid working in the UAE and would ask that those already there, consider withdrawing their services in the interest of their own safety."
Justice delayed, justice denied.
Dr. Karabus deserves better.
And doctors and other health professionals considering working in countries outside their own should investigate to determine whether courts in those countries operate in a manner that assures fair and speedy justice. They should also learn the degree to which medically related injuries and death are tried in criminal instead of civil courts - putting them at greater risk.