Friday, 22 June 2012 07:17
Last week, nine medical professionals in Bahrain were sentenced to up to five years in prison for ‘crimes against the state’. Nine were cleared of any charges by the Bahrain High Criminal Court of Appeal.
A further two healthcare workers did not appeal against their sentences; they are thought to have left Bahrain or gone into hiding. The twenty Shia doctors and nurses were arrested and convicted after civil unrest broke out in Bahrain in February 2011. Earlier, a military judge awarded them much harsher sentences, which led to a huge international outcry condemning the poliically motivated charges. The new sentences range from one month to five years for offences including ‘attempting to occupy a public hospital using force’. The original sentences were from five to fifteen years.
The British Medical Association (BMA), as well as numerous human rights organisations have expressed their profound disappointment with the outcome of the appeal procedure. The BMA has repeatedly lobbied the Bahraini authorities over the case amid concerns that medical neutrality was being jeopardised. The BMA director of professional activities, Vivienne Nathanson, said: ‘We have seen no evidence presented against these doctors and it therefore appears to be wholly contrary to natural justice for them to be found guilty.’
Torture and ill-treatment
Dr Nathanson’s letter to Bahrain’s king states that Bahrain ‘risks appearing to persecute healthcare workers, under the guise of criminal charges, solely because they have fulfilled their fundamental ethical duty to treat patients injured in anti-government protests according to medical need.’ The BMA also calls for an independent investigation into claims by the healthcare workers that they were tortured and ill-treated during their time in custody.
Source: BMA website news, 14 June 2012
- Bahrain – Bahraini blogger still missing a year after trial of activists and government opponents (en.rsf.org)
- Convicted Bahrain doctor starts hunger strike (dailystar.com.lb)
- Bahrain overturns jail terms for some medics (abc.net.au)