Just Delayed, Justice Denied – Again: The Case of Cyril Karabus

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Wilson_edited-1 (08.04.13) Eight months ago (August 18, 2012) Professor Cyril Karabus, a prominent South African physician, was arrested in Dubai during a stopover en route to his home after attending a family wedding in Canada.

Eight months ago Professor Karabus was imprisoned on a charge of manslaughter.

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Professor Cyril Karabus

Eight months ago Professor Karabus, a respected oncologist in his country, learned for the first time that he had been tried in absentia and convicted of manslaughter for care he gave a three-year old Yemeni girl who died of acute myeloid leukemia while he was doing a five-week locum stint in Abu Dhabi ten years ago (2002). 

Six months ago (October 11) Professor Karabus was finally (after five court appearances) released on bail, pending a new trial but required to remain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

A panel of medical experts was appointed to consider the evidence in the case. March 21, after having court appearances postponed for seventeen times, a judge heard from the medical panel that there was no evidence to substantiate the charges. The judge dismissed all charges and a ruling of not guilty was given. 

The relief I am sure Professor Karabus and his family and all of us felt was quickly dashed when the prosecutors filed an appeal of the court’s ruling. A hearing on the appeal will be held this week.

The World Medical Association, The South African Medical Association, the British Medical Association and many other organizations worldwide have been involved in shining the light on this case – asking the UAE to provide Dr. Karabus due process and a fair trial.

In light of the findings of the medical panel and the action of the judge, the WMA believes that Professor Karabus is being treated in a manner that fails to meet international fair trial standards and should be allowed to return home immediately.

In response to this case the WMA Council at its meeting in Bali, Indonesia this past weekend passed a resolution to advise physicians about working in the United Arab Emirates. Advisory notices will be published in the World Medical Journal and on the WMA website advising doctors thinking of working in the UAE to carefully note the working conditions and the legal risks of employment there. The WMA will also encourage its 102 member associations to publish similar advisory notices in their national publications. 

“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”.

Two months ago (February 1) I posted a blog pointing out that the case of Professor Cyril Karabus is an egregious example of justice delayed. I hope, and expect, the court to rule against the appeal of the prosecutors this week and free Professor Karabus to return home. 

This case exemplifies justice delayed, justice denied – again. 

Professor Karabus deserves better. 

Now at long last, Professor Karabus should be freed.

WMA President Cecil. B. Wilson, MD travels around the world talking about the WMA's work representing the millions of physicians worldwide. Acting on behalf of patients and physicians, the WMA endeavors to achieve the highest possible standards of medical care, ethics, education and health related human rights for all people. This blog will chronicle these travels and important issues.