In early 2011, thousands of protesters in the small island kingdom of Bahrain took to the streets calling for government reform. The Bahraini government’s response was brutal and systematic: shoot civilian protesters, or detain and torture them – and erase all evidence.
In 2012, PHR declared that the Bahrain government’s indiscriminate use of tear gas as a weapon had resulted in the maiming, blinding, and even killing of civilian protesters. For our report, “Weaponizing Tear Gas: Bahrain’s Unprecedented Use of Toxic Chemical Agents Against Civilians,” PHR researchers interviewed more than 100 Bahraini citizens during our April investigation, including victims of civil rights violations, corroborating witnesses, civil society leaders, and government officials. The 60-page report documents the findings, based on physical examinations and medical records.
On the front line, treating hundreds of these wounded civilians, doctors had first-hand knowledge of government atrocities. As a result of their efforts to provide unbiased care for wounded protesters, the government initiated systematic and targeted attacks against medical personnel.
PHR went to Bahrain to investigate and document these attacks, which were a clear violation of the principle of medical neutrality and of international law. Our 2011 report “Do No Harm” documented the beating, abuse, and threatening of physicians; the obstruction of medical care through the militarization of hospitals and clinics; security forces stealing ambulances and posing as medics; and the abduction and detention of medical personnel. Nearly 100 health professionals were wrongfully imprisoned by the Bahraini government during the political unrest; Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, the last imprisoned medical worker, was finally released in March 2017.
But our work is not complete. PHR continues to join other human rights organizations around the world in calling for the release of all human rights activists wrongfully imprisoned in Bahrain.