BBC FOCUS ON AGNES PLIGHT

Recent BBC focus on the ongoing plight of Agnes Gereb with programmes on Woman’s Hour and Newsnight. Click to view.

NEWSNIGHT Nick Thorpe interviews Agnes and reviews the situation on homebirth in Hungary (7/6/2012) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18366784

WOMAN’S HOUR Jenni interview with Beatrix Bodrogi (3/05/12)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_Emg8IobJA

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A heroine not a villain

Statement for Friday 10 February, 2012 – comment from Budapest

Today is Black Friday, a sad day in the history of 3 Hungarian professions: Obstetricians, Prosecutors, and Judges. For Obstetricians, because they have hounded one of their own to prison, one whose gentle birth practices were better than their own daily, dangerous interventions. And out of fear for the power and ‘gratitude money’ they receive by preventing the emergence of a real Midwifery Profession which would attend births in their place.  The many doctors who recognise the value of Agnes Gereb’s work, but refuse to stand by her, because they are afraid for their jobs, are simply cowards. They should be ashamed. This is also a black day for Prosecutors, who have fanatically persecuted an innocent woman, the best of her profession, while they  stay silent about the daily deaths and injuries which take place during birth in Hungarian hospitals.And a black day for Judges, for not having the basic common sense, the basic intelligence, to recognise from the start that the accusations against Agnes Gereb were not a matter for an ignorant court, but for a professional body of midwives. How could the so-called ‘experts’ called by the judge and the prosecultion, who have no knowledge of a midwife-attended birth, who are not even midwives themselves, judge the work of a separate profession? And how ironic, that just when the Hungarian government, at long last, has begun the process of formally recognising and regulating homebirth, the medical and legal profession gang-up to criminalise its best practitioner! But on this sad day for Hungarian justice, on this day of injustice, we have a positive message. We turn with confidence to the President of the Republic, and appeal to him, in his wisdom, to grant FULL AMNESTY to Agnes Gereb. Not just to reduce this prison sentence to a lesser punishment. But we appeal to him to throw out this case IN ITS ENTIRETY, and to allow Agnes Gereb to resume her rightful position, attending homebirths and training a new generation of midwives in gentle birth. Parallel to that, we are turning to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, to ask them to urgently review this case. We are confident that the Court will decide that Agnes has not, has never received a fair trial in Hungary. The many legal irregularities listed by Agnes Gereb’s lawyers, most recently the inexplicable refusal of this judge to consider either the new evidence we intended to present, or the views of international experts. But above all, we intend to prove to the court that this case should never have gone to court. That it should have been considered by a committee of Agnes Gereb’s own profession, the Midwifery profession, as in any other civilised country. That case may take many months, even years. But one thing is clear. Agnes Gereb is innocent. She is not a villain. She is a heroine. And we intend to prove that.

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Agnes’ persecution continues – a black day for homebirth

A black day for homebirth in Hungary

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Agnes Gereb sentenced to 2 years in jail: appeal launched

On 24 March the Budapest City Court sentenced Agnes to 2 years in prison, with a 5 year ban on practising as an obstetrician/ midwife. The case was based entirely on data provided by the Prosecution, and the opinions of international homebirth experts in support of Agnes were not submitted. Judge Janos Cserni was whistled and jeered by some 50 supporters of homebirth who gathered spontaneously outside the court to protest against the sentence. Agnes’  lawyers appealed immediately against the sentence and Agnes will remain under house arrest pending the outcome of the appeal
This sentence is all the more astonishing, given the recent efforts of maximize ambien effectivenes the Hungarian government to regulate homebirth after twenty years of failure. However, despite the introduction of the first Hungarian homebirth legislation on 1 May this year, the need for a professional midwifery body continues to be ignored.
We call on the Hungarian authorities, starting with the President of the Republic, Pal Schmitt, to urgently review this travesty of justice, and we call on all supporters of natural birth, and homebirth, in Hungary and internationally, to support Agnes – please write to your members of Parliament and the Hungarian Embassies and Consulates worldwide to express your outrage at this sentence, and appeal for it to be lifted.

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Statement in support of Agnes from the IMBCO

Fast on the heels of the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights
demanding the introduction of homebirth regulations in Hungary, the highly
regarded worlwide organisation The International Motherbirth Child
Organisation (IMBCO) has added to the increasing pressure on the
Hungarian Government by issuing a strongly worded letter asking the
Government to release Agnes.

The key points of the IMBCO letter are contained in the following two
paragraphs:

”The Strasbourg ruling supports the view, held widely and firmly
amongst the international community, that Dr. Gereb’s professional
birth actions should never have been dealt with under the Hungarian
criminal code system. Had any of the Governments since 1989 introduced
good homebirth regulations, these would have ensured that her
professional actions would have been evaluated by a College of
Midwives or an equivalent professional body, as is the case in almost
all European countries. Prison is the wrong place and the criminal
code the wrong system upon which to fairly and properly judge Dr.
Gereb’s medical actions. Unfortunately, Dr. Gereb has had to endure
some 70 days of unfair and unnecessary imprisonment and suffered
levels of mistreatment that led inevitably to a further case being
filed before the ECHR concerning severe violations of her human
rights.

IMBCO would respectfully ask a democratic Hungary, the incoming
President of the European Union, what remedies it has available to its
citizens when it is clear, as in the case of Dr. Gereb, that a person,
totally innocent of criminal actions, is nevertheless imprisoned
indefinitely and faces serious criminal charges which could deprive
her of her freedom for a lengthy period? We hope in receiving your
answer, Secretary of State that we find a Government conscious of the
grave injustice that has been visited upon Dr Gereb and one willing to
find an immediate solution to secure her freedom”.

For further information on the work of the IMBCO in their global
effort to improve maternity care please visit their website:
http://www.imbci.org

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AGNES FREED FROM PRISON, NOW UNDER HOUSE ARREST

Agnes was freed from prison today after the judge ruled she could be detained under house arrest until her trial. Only a partial victory and the Agnes campaign continues to fight for the charges against her to be dropped.

Here are some photos from outside the prison where her friends and supporters sang Happy Birthday 58 times!

And here’s the audio…

Happy birthday to Agnes

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European Court criticises Hungary and protects women’s right to home birth

Fantastic news! In a case brought to the European Court of Human Rights by a Hungarian woman who wasn’t able to give birth as she wanted, the Court has criticised the “permanent threat” to health professionals in Hungary.

The Court found that women’s right to choose where to give birth is protected under Article 8 of the European Convention (right to private and family life). The case is called Ternovszky v Hungary
The Court found the Hungarian law regulating home birth is confused and arbitrary. The Court stated:

[T]he matter of health professionals assisting home births is surrounded by legal uncertainty prone to arbitrariness. Prospective mothers cannot therefore be considered as freely benefiting from such assistance, since a permanent threat is being posed to health professionals inclined to assist home births by virtue of Government Decree no. 218/1999 as well as the absence of specific, comprehensive legislation on the matter. The lack of legal certainty and the threat to health professionals has limited the choices of the applicant considering home delivery. For the Court, this situation is incompatible with the notion of “foreseeability” and hence with that of “lawfulness”.’

How can Agnes be imprisoned for helping women fulfil their human rights? Let’s hope this judgment shames the Hungarian government into releasing her.

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Send Agnes a birthday card!

Agnes’ birthday is on 20 December. Please send cards to:

AGNES’ PRISON ADDRESS
Gereb Agnes
BV I. Fegyhaz
1055 Budapest,
Nagy Ignác u. 5-11.

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Petition!

We’ve created a petition calling for Agnes’ release. announced here soon…

On the subject of petitions, Professor Lesley Page of King’s College, London, yesterday presented a petition from thirty international medical experts to the Hungarian government.

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Write a letter your MEP!

On 1 January, Hungary takes over the Presidency of the European Council of Ministers. It’s vital that MEPs are told about Agnes so they can raise her case in the European Parliament.

Here’s the text of sample letter that you can send to your MEP. Please make any changes you’d like, it always makes more impact to send your own letter.

Dear xxx,

I write as one of your constituents to express my profound concern about the treatment of midwife and doctor Agnes Gereb by the Hungarian authorities. As a result of helping women given birth at home and in her birth centre, she has recently been charged with negligent malpractice and imprisoned in appalling conditions.

Women across EU member states do not all have the same level of reproductive rights. While other EU states enable women to give birth in their homes, the Hungarian government has long failed to support women in their birth choices. Hungary refuses to allow home births despite provisions in Hungarian law that give women the right to choose where to give birth. Dr Gereb has taken personal risks to support women in their choices about how they wish to give birth and is now paying a very high price.

Since respect for human dignity and respect for human rights are among the values on which the EU is founded (Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union), there are certain key principles that should be adhered to by EU member states. Hungary has breached these principles as a consequence of its treatment of Dr Gereb and its failure to provide proper care for women. In particular:

• Dr Gereb has the right to liberty and security of person: her imprisonment is unjustifiable, especially as there is no suggestion that she has deliberately caused any harm.
• Dr Gereb has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
• Dr Gereb has the right to be treated with dignity. She should not be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, in particular strip searches and intrusive searches of body orifices.
• The Hungarian government should licence midwives to provide home births within a well-integrated maternity service in which women can move between midwifery-led and doctor-led care according to their needs and wishes.

Besides violating her rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Dr Gereb’s arbitrary treatment by the Hungarian authorities also violates other provisions of EU law, in particular her freedom of establishment and her freedom to provide services under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

I would like to draw your attention to a letter in the Guardian from Wendy Savage and Sheila Kitzinger, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/09/home-birth-in-hungary.

To help Dr Gereb, please bring pressure to bear on the Hungarian authorities through any other mechanisms available to you as an MEP.

Kind regards,

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