French court dismisses Aids-tainted blood case

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The Independent Online

An appeals court threw out a long-standing case yesterday against 30 people who had been expected to go on trial for their alleged roles in an Aids-tainted blood scandal that shook France's public health system more than a decade ago.

An appeals court threw out a long-standing case yesterday against 30 people who had been expected to go on trial for their alleged roles in an Aids-tainted blood scandal that shook France's public health system more than a decade ago.

The decision shocked families of victims, who were infected or died because they were transfused with blood infected with HIV. Many of the victims were haemophiliacs dependent on transfusions to survive. More than 4,000 people were infected before the tainted products were withdrawn. Hundreds have died.

"It's an amnesty. There is no justice," said Joelle Boucher, whose son developed Aids after being contaminated during a transfusion.

The prosecutor's office has five days to decide whether to appeal against the decision, made by the appeals court's investigating branch.

Senior French officials and health specialists have already been taken to court in the scandal, which centred on their failure to withdraw blood products known to have been contaminated with HIV in the 1980s. Most claimed not enough was known about Aids at the time.

Doctors and Health Ministry advisers are among the 30 people involved in the current case. But only seven of the 30 were being pursued on criminal charges, from poisoning to complicity to poison or "voluntary violence". The 23 others were under investigation for misdemeanors. All were implicated for allegedly having prescribed or distributed blood products contaminated with HIV.

In 1999, a special court acquitted the former prime minister Laurent Fabius and the former social affairs minister Georgina Dufoix of manslaughter. Edmond Herve, a former health minister, was convicted but not given a penalty. Dr Michel Garretta, former head of the National Blood Transfusion Centre, was jailed for his role in the scandal, one of only a handful given prison terms.

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