So it appears Australians headed for Europe on the nation’s flag-carrier will be traveling through the Dubai airport henceforth, instead of via gorgeous Singapore and its magnificent Changi Airport. The reasons are all about business, money and saving Qantas.
But at what price? People who pass through Dubai are going to need to be a bit more sensitive to some of the ways it is different from other major air route junctions.
That’s what Prof. Karabus learned, only a little too late. He is 77 years old, and a world-renowned paediatric oncologist from Cape Town, South Africa. During his term as head of oncology at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in that city, the mortality rate of children with leukaemia was reduced from 80 to 20 percent. He has dedicated most of his working life to needy children in some of the most disadvantaged areas in South Africa.
According to The Guardian, he
dedicated himself to saving the lives of black children from cancer throughout the apartheid era… [and] pioneered treatment for cancer and blood disorders at the Red Cross hospital in Cape Town, where he worked for 35 years, and trained numerous doctors at Cape Town University.
None of the newspapers reporting on his plight have mentioned his religious faith so – given the nature of the people he is up against – we will see that as a policy to emulate.
For five weeks in 2002, he worked as a medical locum at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi during which he treated a three-year old child with terminal blood cancer. Medical professionals involved in the treatment at the time, quoted in a South African news report, are certain that the child received the best possible care from Karabus. Her death was unavoidable.
On August 18, 2012, a decade later, Prof. Karabus passed through Dubai International airport as a transit passenger, returning from his son’s wedding in Canada. Here’s what the South African paper says:
He then discovered, for the first time, that he was a convicted felon and alleged “fugitive from justice” and has since experienced the full might of the United Arab Emirates criminal justice system. Unbeknown to him, he had been charged, tried, convicted and sentenced in absentia for manslaughter in that country 10 years ago… Without his knowledge, he was convicted in the UAE criminal courts on charges of manslaughter and falsifying documents. It is alleged the patient was not given a platelet transfusion when required and that it was this, and not her terminal cancer, that led to her death. The specifics of the case are still unclear but it is alleged that Karabus falsified a document saying that the transfusion had been ordered. He was sentenced without being asked to mount a defence, to three years and six months imprisonment and ordered to pay so-called “blood money.” [More].
His lawyers made four applications for bail in the past month. All were rejected, evidently because [report] “the prosecution could not find the hospital files that contained the evidence.” Meanwhile he was held in Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi’s central prison [source].
He was shackled at his last court appearance, and his spirit is broken. It is infuriating that this will be all people remember about him despite his many years of service to public health care in South Africa and abroad.
The prison is described [here] this way:
Al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi is notorious for its human rights abuse, stoning to death, lashings, overcrowding. Inmates sleep in cells designed for 8 which held 22 with 3 lice infested blankets on a cement floor.
This story would enrage us even if the founder of the regime had not been famed for insisting his underlings “treat all living creatures with dignity and respect.” There is not much dignity, and even less respect, in what is being done to the distinguished Prof. Karabus. An online petition here, asking for the elderly oncologist’s release, had gotten 11,225 signatures when we signed it an hour ago. As happens so often in life, there is not much we ordinary people can do to express our fury in the face of outrageous injustice by people with power. Signing a petition is one (please do). Letting the good people at Qantas, one of the world’s really good airlines, know [as a Sydney lawyer did] how the special relationship with Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi feels to us, is another.