Category Archives: Bahraini Medics
Yesterday, the Tom Lantos Commission for Human Rights heard testimony from representatives from nonprofit organizations and activists concerned about the lack of progress on human rights reforms in Bahrain. Richard Sollom, Deputy Director for Physicians For Human Rights, presented testimony to a standing-room-only audience of legislators, journalists, activists, and concerned citizens.
Physicians for Human Rights Identifies Human Rights Concerns in Bahrain
In his statement to the Congressional Commission (read the full statement here), Mr. Sollom identified multiple areas of concern that have arisen over the past 18 months, including
- The targeting of doctors, including 48 medical specialists who were detained, tortured, and forced to sign false confessions.
- The militarization of Bahrain’s health system, including the ongoing presence of government security forces inside the nation’s largest hospital, the systematic interrogation of incoming patients and visitors, and the abuse and detention of Bahrainis suspected of participating in protests.
- The excessive use of force against Bahrainis, including the unlawfully excessive and indiscriminate use of tear gas.
Important Report Release Coincides with Testimony
On the same day as Sollom’s testimony, Physicians for Human Rights issued the report, Weaponizing Tear Gas: Bahrain’s Unprecedented Use of Toxic Chemical Agents Against Civilians. Sollom and co-author Holly Atkinson, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and former president of PHR, interviewed more than 100 Bahraini citizens during their investigation. Their 60-page report documents the nonprofit organization’s findings, based on physical examinations and medical records. The report found numerous injuries, miscarriages, and fatalities associated with the Bahrain government’s excessive use of tear gas.
Recommendations from Physicians for Human Rights
In his testimony, Mr. Sollom recommended that Congress support the Medical Neutrality Protection Act, H.R. 2643, legislation introduced by Representative Jim McDermott (D, Washington).
The principle of medical neutrality ensures
- The protection of medical personnel, patients, facilities, and transport from attack or interference;
- Unhindered access to medical care and treatment;
- The humane treatment of all civilians; and
- Non-discriminatory treatment of the injured and sick.
The proposed legislation would
- Suspend non-humanitarian assistance to countries violating medical neutrality;
- Prevent officials from receiving visas who ordered or engaged in any violation of medical neutrality;
- Add reporting of medical neutrality violations to the annual State Department country reports;.
- Encourage U.S. missions in foreign nations to investigate alleged violations of medical neutrality.
Mr. Sollom also recommended that the United States
- Withhold all military assistance to Bahrain until the Government of Bahrain makes measurable progress on human rights and demilitarizes its public health care system.
- Deny export licenses for tear gas to Bahrain until the Government adheres to U.N. guidelines for its use, investigates the weaponization of tear gas, and holds law enforcement officials accountable for the excessive use of tear gas.
- Work with the U.N. to seek the appointment of a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Medical Neutrality.
- Ensure that policy decisions related to Bahrain support human rights protections.
Twenty medical personnel were arrested and charged with crimes associated with their treatment of patients at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Bahrain in the wake of brutal crackdowns by the Bahraini police and security forces two years ago. After re-trials were held last week, nine medics remain convicted. The United States has called for the dismissal of all charges against all the medics.
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee supports the dismissal of charges and immediate release of all those charged in these cases, on human rights grounds. Here is the text of the statement by the Bahraini medics after the hearing on June 14, 2012.
Statement by the Medics after the verdicts issued by the Appeal Court.
Bahraini courts on June 14 2012 convicted most members of the medical cadre that were arrested last year for treating protestors and use four doctors as scapegoats by giving disproportionately high sentences.
On 14th of June 2012, a Bahraini judge issued harsh and unfair jail sentences against the 20 medical personnel who treated the protesters during the uprising of February and March 2011 in Bahrain.
The Court of Appeal upheld the convictions of nine of the medics who received sentences of up to five years in jail, while the military court judgment of 15 years sentences were also upheld against two of the medics in absentia.
The jail sentences were as follows:
- 5 years for Ali Al-Ekri, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
- 3 years for the nurse and Secretary of Bahrain Nursing Society Ebrahim Demestani
- 1 year for the Consultant Dental and maxillofacial; Surgeon Ghassan Dhaif
- 1 year for the Eye Specialist Dr.Saeed Al-Samaheeji
- 6 months for the Consultant Pediatric Surgeon Mahmood Asghar
- 2 months for the nurse Dhiya’a Jaffar
- 1 month for the Consultant Pediatrician Nader Dawani
- 1 month for the Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon Bassem Dhaif
- 1 month for the ,Consultant Rheumatologist Abdul Khaleq Al-Oraibi
The remaining nine members of the accused medical cadre were acquitted by the court. Earlier during the trial, the prosecution made a public statement saying “only five of the medics will be convicted.” This statement clearly proves that there was political interference in the course of justice.
It was no coincidence that the court of appeal’s final judgment came exactly in line with it, making certain that particular doctors were used as scapegoats in a sham trial. The prosecution failed to prove its case by providing any substantive evidence, and the main charges of possession of weapons and occupying the Salmaniya Medical Complex were dropped.
However, due to the political nature of this trial, the judge was under tremendous pressure from the authorities to issue sentences instead of applying the abstract law. If the trial had been just, all of the medics would have been completely acquitted.
The authorities victimized the medics because they were credible first-hand witnesses of the government brutality that occurred during the events of February/March 2011 and openly rejected the Minister of Health and security forces’ orders not to send ambulances to aid the wounded protestors, as was confirmed by the BICI report.
The variations of the verdicts that range from imprisonment to innocence reflects the desire to punish members of the medical teams, especially those against whom harsh sentences were issued despite all the international outcry and all the credible witnesses who disproved government’s claims.
The prosecution was forced to drop the confessions of the defendants which were extracted under torture. This was exposed by the BICI report and backed with forensic evidence. These sentences are rejected by us and are a black stain on Bahrain on a medical cadre that has only been truly dedicated to its profession.
The oppressed medics were exposed to multiple violations from the outset from the arbitrary arrests, isolation from the outside world (incommunicado detention), the physical and psychological torture they were subjected to after most of them were abducted by armed and masked forces in civilian clothes who attacked their homes at night, or from hospital surgery theatre as in the case of Dr. Al-Ekri.
The medics were also subjected to an unprecedented smear campaign by state media where programs broadcast by the state TV, and articles published by official newspapers, condemned the medics even before their trial. This campaign was led by government officials like the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Human Rights & Health, who should me made accountable for such acts.
The Bahraini authorities are ignoring the outcry of the international NGOs, and are violating the Geneva Conventions and the principles of medical neutrality and denying them the basic right to a fair trial. Doctors need to be protected during war or uprisings or at time of political unrest in order to provide needed medical care for patients in need.
The Medics insist on their innocence, and request the concerned governments and organizations to continue their support for those dedicated health professionals who only performed their duties and treated the injured to revoke those sentences, to investigate the violations and torture they were subjected to and present those responsible to justice, to restore their rights to them and compensate them, and to reinstate them to their jobs.
Thus from this room, we the medics call on the international community to stand with us against these unjust verdicts that will mean they will spend many years in jail. We urge you to put more pressure on our government to stop this sham trial, to drop all charges against medical personnel, and to acquit them, as they did with their other colleagues.
In this Democracy Now! video interview, Nabeel Hameed, one of three neurosurgeons in Bahrain, speaks on the human rights situation in Bahrain. Dr. Hameed is one of the Bahraini physicians and nurses who were arrested and tried for treating anti-government protesters during the crack downs in February 2011. After his arrest, he was tortured and imprisoned for three months. He and the other Bahraini medical professionals charged with various offenses in connection with treating the injured await trial in the Bahraini courts.
Human rights organizations worldwide have condemned Bahrain’s treatment, arrest, and incarceration of these doctors and nurses, as have the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union.
Dr. Hameed visited the U.S. to tell his story in May 2012.
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BAHRAINI MEDICS’ APPEAL RESUMES
The trial of 20 health professionals resumed on 8 March 2012. Their travel bans have not been lifted and their allegations of torture still have not been independently investigated. Their lawyers are complaining about the difficulty of mounting an adequate defense.
The appeal hearing of 20 health professionals resumed in Bahrain on 8 March 2012 before the civilian High Criminal Court of Appeal, following three previous hearings on 9 January, 28 February and 4 March. During the 8 March hearing five prosecution witnesses were called to testify. The next hearing is scheduled on 15 March, when defense witnesses should testify.
The court did not accept the defense lawyers’ request to lift the travel ban imposed on the health professionals. They had been referred in previous sessions for forensic examination by a medical team made up of representatives from the Public Prosecution Office, the Ministry of Health and the Gulf University. The defense lawyers have complained about the lack of impartiality of this team, arguing that the Public Prosecution Office and the Ministry of Health are not independent. They added that until now the defendants have not been examined by this body because it has not been fully formed. The defense lawyers reiterated their request made in previous sessions to include the reports of torture and the forensic examinations included in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report in the case file. Although this request had been accepted in a previous session, the reports have not yet been included.
Following remarks made by the Public Prosecutor on 5 March implying the lawyers were not carrying out their duties properly and “continued to adopt delaying tactics in the case to advance agendas that should have no place in the courtroom,” the defense lawyers have rejected this accusation and have complained that they are not given enough time to prepare to cross-examine witnesses.
Please write immediately in Arabic or English :
Urge the Bahraini authorities to ensure the appeal proceedings comply with international standards for fair trial, allow the defence lawyers to call any relevant witnesses, and give them adequate time to prepare the defense of their clients;
Express concern that if jailed, the defendants would be prisoners of conscience imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly;
Urge them to launch an independent and impartial investigation into the defendants’ allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, and ensure that an independent forensic body examines the defendants’ claims.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 20 APRIL 2012 TO :
HM Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O. Box 555
Fax: +973 176 64 587
Salutation: Your Majesty
Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa
Office of the Prime Minister
P.O. Box 1000
Fax: +973 175 33 033
Salutation: Your Highness
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P.O. Box 13
Fax: +973 175 31 284
Salutation: Your Excellency
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
Ms. Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain
Bahrain Embassy – Washington, DC
3502 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
BAHRAINI MEDICS’ APPEAL RESUMES
These 20 defendants are among 48 health professionals from the Salmaniya Medical Complex who were arrested in March and April 2011. Some of them had been vocal in giving interviews to foreign journalists and accusing the government of abuses against protesters. All were held incommunicado for several weeks. In most cases their families did not know their whereabouts for most of this time and were only allowed to see them during the first session of their trial before the National Safety Court of First Instance, a military court, which started on 6 June. The 48 were split into two groups on 13 June: 20 of them were accused of felonies while the rest were accused of misdemeanors. Many of them went on hunger strike in protest at their detention and trial and were gradually released on bail in August and September 2011.
On 29 June, the King decreed that all cases linked to the February-March 2011 protests would be transferred to ordinary civilian courts; he then issued a further decree on 18 August (Decree 28/20011) ordering that the National Safety Court of First Instance continue to deal with felony cases, while misdemeanour cases would be referred to civilian courts. In early October trials before military courts stopped and since then all trials have been heard before civilian courts. On 29 September the National Safety Court of First Instance sentenced the 20 health professionals to between five and 15 years in prison. Thirteen of the medics – ‘Ali ‘Esa Mansoor al-‘Ekri, Nader Mohammed Hassan Dewani, Ahmed ‘Abdulaziz Omran Hassan, Mahmood Asghar ‘Abdulwahab, ‘Abdulkhaleq ‘Ali Hussain al-‘Oraibi, Ghassan Ahmed ‘Ali Dhaif, Bassim Ahmed ‘Ali Dhaif, Ebrahim ‘Abdullah Ebrahim, Sayed Marhoon Majid al-Wedaei, Roula Jassim Mohammed al-Saffar, Nada Sa’eed ‘Abdelnabi Dhaif , ‘Ali Hassan al-Sadadi and Qassim Mohammad ‘Omran – were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Hassan Mohammed Sa’eed Nasser and Sa’eed Mothaher Habib Al Samahiji were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Fatima Salman Hassan Haji , Dhia Ibrahim Ja’far , Najah Khalil Ibrahim Hassan, Zahra Mahdi al-Sammak and Mohammed Faeq ‘Ali Al Shehab were sentenced to five years in prison. All of them have since been released on bail.
On 23 October the health professionals’ apppeal hearing started before a civilian court and three charges were dropped: “Spreading false news in detriment to public security”, “Public instigation of hate against the system of government” and “Instigating public employees in Salmaniya Hospital to violate laws and refrain from performing their work duties.”
Other charges remain including: “Illegal possession of firearms for a terrorist purpose”, “Attempting to occupy a public hospital using force” and “Attempting to topple the system of government by force ”
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was established by Royal Decree on 29 June to investigate abuses during the March/February protests and other abuses in the following months. The full report was published on 23 November. Hundreds of cases were covered in the BICI report on the February-March 2011 protests, including beatings of protesters by the security forces, mass arbitrary arrests of mainly Shi’a opposition activists and widespread torture, with five deaths resulting from torture in custody. In all, at least 46 people have died in connection with the protests, including five security forces personnel. The report urged the government to immediately establish an independent body made up of representatives of civil society, the opposition and the government; to oversee the implementation of the BICI’s recommendations; to usher in legislative reforms to ensure laws are in line with international human rights standards; and to bring to account those responsible for abuses.
Names: ‘Ali ‘Esa Mansoor al-‘Ekri (m), Nader Mohammed Hassan Dewani (m), Ahmed ‘Abdulaziz Omran Hassan (m),
Mahmood Asghar ‘Abdulwahab (m), ‘Abdulkhaleq ‘Ali Hussain al-‘Oraibi (m), Ghassan Ahmed ‘Ali Dhaif (m), Bassim Ahmed ‘Ali
Dhaif (m), Ebrahim ‘Abdullah Ebrahim (m);, Sayed Marhoon Majid al-Wedaei (m); Roula Jassim Mohammed al-Saffar (f), Nada
Sa’eed ‘Abdelnabi Dhaif (f) , ‘Ali Hassan al-Sadadi (m), Qassim Mohammad ‘Omran (m) Hassan Mohammed Sa’eed Nasser
(m), Sa’eed Mothaher Habib Al Samahiji (m), Fatima Salman Hassan Haji (f), Dhia Ibrahim Ja’far (f), Najah Khalil Ibrahim
Hassan (f), Zahra Mahdi al-Sammak (f) and Mohammed Faeq ‘Ali Al Shehab (m)
- Mass protest near Bahrain capital (bbc.co.uk)
- A US double-standard for Bahrain? – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
Bahrain has arrested and detained 20 medical professionals who treated protesters for injuries. It has been reported that these people have been tortured while detained, and that they were subjected to unfair court proceedings.
Read the Bahraini-Medics-press-statement, including names and prison sentences.
Read the Human Rights Watch account and direct observation of security force torture and beatings of doctors, nurses, and patients (excerpt below, bold text is my emphasis)
Human Rights Watch witnessed one incident on March 27 in which security forces forcibly removed a 22-year-old patient from a clinic he had checked into for serious injuries after security forces shot him with a pellet gun. The patient was obviously in great pain, and doctors told Human Rights Watch he needed immediate surgery to remove more than 100 pellets that had penetrated his pelvic area and damaged internal organs. They informed both the patient and his family that they would need to request blood for a transfusion from Salmaniya, and warned that they could not request the blood without divulging the patient’s name, national identity number, and the nature of his injuries.
Approximately an hour-and-a-half later, Human Rights Watch observed about 10 security agents and riot police carrying weapons enter the clinic. One officer told Human Rights Watch that they had come from a local police station to take the patient with them. They forced him out of bed and to his feet. After trying to force him to walk, which the intense pain apparently prevented him from doing, they placed the wounded man in a wheelchair, then put him into an unmarked white sports utility vehicle and drove off with a four-jeep police escort. Human Rights Watch has been unable to obtain information about his subsequent well-being or whereabouts.
On September, 29, 2011, Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC made the following remarks to the press. Last week, Bahrain proceeded with the trials of these medical professionals. Evidently, the September 29, 2011 statement was not strong enough an incentive. It is time for the U.S. to make another statement, and more strongly declare our opposition to the trials, and advocate for the immediate release of these persons.
Here is the September 29, 2011 statement:
We are deeply disturbed by the sentencing today of 20 medical professionals by the National Safety Court in Bahrain. We understand that the cases can be appealed and transferred to a civilian appellate court. We continue to urge the Bahraini Government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, including a fair trial, access to attorneys, and verdicts based on credible evidence conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations.
We are also concerned about trials of civilians, including medical personnel, in military courts and the fairness of those proceedings. We have repeatedly shared our position regarding Bahrain’s judicial proceedings with the highest levels of the Bahraini Government.
We call on the Government of Bahrain and all citizens to create a climate conducive for reconciliation, meaningful dialogue, and reform that, as President Obama said on September 21, will bring peaceful change that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis.
Write to U.S. State Department officials and demand an accounting of their activities on behalf of the medical professionals in Bahrain. Call for a stronger response, including a statement declaring the country’s support for these medical professionals.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (use salutation: Dear Madam Secretary:)
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson
Office of the Spokesperson
Bureau of Public Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
- Al Khalifa’s Vendetta Against Bahraini Medics (ayannanahmias.com)
- Bahrain will prosecute medics who treated protestors; take action (humanrightstodolist.wordpress.com)
- Amnesty International Calls for Urgent Action for Bahraini Medics (humanrightstodolist.wordpress.com)
Andrew Hammond of Reuters reported on March 20 that Bahrain will prosecute 2o medics who treated wounded protesters, despite international protests and allegations of torture.
On February 9, 2012, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner said that Bahrain should seek “alternatives to criminal prosecution” in the case.
“However, more needs to be done in several key areas. First, there are hundreds of pending criminal cases stemming from the events of February and March, including a substantial number where individuals remain in detention. The BICI report recommends that the government drop charges against all persons accused of offenses involving political expression. The government should fully comply with this recommendation. Also in this area, the government continues to prosecute 20 medical professionals. Though we are not privy to all the evidence in this or other cases, we suggested that alternatives to criminal prosecution be considered in the cases of the medics.”
Do you think this is wrong?
- Al Khalifa’s Vendetta Against Bahraini Medics (ayannanahmias.com)
- Bahrain retries convicted protest doctors (rt.com)