ResourcesPress Release

On Eve of One-Year Anniversary of Protests, Bahrain Should Support Freedom of Expression

For Immediate Release

Asthe international community looks to Bahrain on the one-year anniversaryof the popular protests in the country, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) todaycalled on the Government of Bahrain to support freedom of expression and resista violent response to protests.

One year ago, on February 14, 2011, the people of Bahrain gathered toprotest peacefully the lack of political freedoms in the country. Thegovernment’s response was brutal – protesters were arrested, detained,tortured, and killed. First responders to injured protesters – doctors, nurses,and medical technicians – were systematically attacked because of their effortsto provide care to those in need. In April 2011, PHR found that governmentforces violated medical neutrality by targeting medical professionals,militarizing the health system, and keeping those in need of care fromaccessing medical services.

“Over the past year, the Bahraini government has repeatedly promisedthat reforms are on the horizon but the government’s actions have been thepolar opposite,” said Hans Hogrefe, Chief Policy Officer at PHR. “We havewatched as the government continues its crackdown on civilians and deniesaccess to human rights groups and other outside observers. The government has beenusing tear gas to attack civilians and Bahraini civil society groups havedocumented deaths that have resulted from these attacks. Some victims have evenbeen young children.”

The Government also continues its harassment of medical professionals.Medics who treated protesters and were then arrested, tortured, and chargedwith attempting to overthrow the government are still on trial. Even though theBahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, a commission instated by the King ofBahrain, found evidence of such torture, the Bahraini government has not thrownout the confessions that resulted from torture. No genuine effort toinvestigate and prosecute those responsible for torture and other crimes hasyet begun in Bahrain.

PHR calls on the Government of Bahrain to demonstrate a genuinecommitment to reform. The increased international attention surrounding theone-year anniversary of the popular protests provide an opportunity for theGovernment to show the changes it has made since February 14, 2011. Keybenchmarks the Government should meet in order to take significant steps towardreform include:

  • Thoroughly and independently investigating andprosecuting alleged perpetrators of torture, killings, and other crimes
  • Allowing the fullest extent of freedom ofexpression
  • Allowing independent human rights monitors inthe country
  • Undertaking a genuine national dialogue with allstakeholders in order to promote democracy in Bahrain.

“The Government of Bahrain still has a chance to show the internationalcommunity that it is committed to reform and fair treatment of its citizens,and now is the time,” said Hogrefe. “And the international community has thechance to show that it wants more than words.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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