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South African Oncologist Cyril Karabus Finally Permitted to Leave the UAE and Return Home
May 17, 2013
Today, at noon, Dr. Cyril Karabus arrived home in Cape Town, South Africa after a harrowing nine-month ordeal in the United Arab Emirates. He was greeted at the airport by his overjoyed family, government officials, members of the South African Medical Association, and more than 100 friends and supporters. Dr. Karabus, a 78-year-old pediatric oncologist and professor emeritus of the University of Cape Town, was found innocent of any wrongdoing by the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court on March 21, 2013, following almost two dozen court hearings, most of which consisted only of postponements. The UAE, however, kept Dr. Karabus’s passport for almost two more months, while the prosecution unsuccessfully appealed against his acquittal and, finally, decided not to pursue a final appeal to the UAE’s highest court. The final two weeks before his departure from the UAE were spent shuttling between the prison, the court, and various government offices to acquire the necessary documents and his passport. Because of the many bureaucratic issues that prolonged the process, South African Embassy officials reportedly accompanied him throughout  the process and escorted him through customs and on to the plane to ensure his safe departure.
Dr. Karabus's ordeal began when he was arrested at the UAE’s Dubai International Airport in August 2012 while in transit home from Canada, where he and his family had attended his son’s wedding. It was only after his arrest that he learned he had been charged and convicted in absentia 10 years earlier following a complaint about his treatment of a 3-year-old leukemia patient who died while he was working as a locum for 5 weeks in 2002 in a medical center in Abu Dhabi. After two months in jail, he was released on bail, his conviction was set aside on the grounds that he had been denied the right to defend himself, and a retrial was ordered.
Dr. Karabus’s retrial began on November 20, 2012. After numerous delays and the failure of the prosecution to provide the court and the defense with the complete medical file of the patient, a medical review committee appointed by the court to review the case finally met on March 19, 2013. After examining the medical file, the committee absolved Dr. Karabus of any wrongdoing. It reported its findings to the judge, and days later Dr. Karabus was found not guilty.
The CHR and the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies undertook Dr. Karabus’s case shortly after his detention. Several dozen letters of appeal were sent to the UAE authorities by the committee, other members of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, and member academies of the international human rights network. A considerable number of academy members also sent Dr. Karabus personal notes of encouragement and many received replies from him. Dr. Karabus and his family are extremely grateful for the support they received from all of those who wrote in his behalf, as is the CHR.