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PHR Calls Imprisonment of Medical Professionals “a Black Day for Bahrain”

For Immediate Release

PHR emphatically deplores the imprisonment today of six Bahraini medical professionals convicted as a result of caring for injured protesters last year.

“It’s a black day for Bahrain when it imprisons physicians and other medical professionals whose only ‘crime’ was to carry out their ethical duty to care for sick and wounded people,” said Richard Sollom, PHR’s deputy director. “Sadly, these medics have now joined the ranks of other prisoners of conscience unjustly locked up in Bahrain and elsewhere around the world.”

The six—Dr. Ali Al Ekri, Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, Dr. Mahmood Asghar, Dr. Saeed Al Samahiji, Dheya Ibrahim, and Ibrahim Al Demistani—were arrested early today and transported to prison to serve terms ranging from two months to five years.

The six were among 20 doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals arrested in April 2011 after treating protesters injured in the Arab Spring protest against the Bahraini regime. All had witnessed firsthand the injuries caused by the security forces’ excessive use of force. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, established by Bahrain’s king to investigate charges of human rights abuses, acknowledged allegations that the medics had been tortured before confessing to fabricated crimes and being convicted in a military court. But after their cases were transferred to a civilian court, nine were sentenced to prison terms of between one month and five years.

Yesterday, the country’s highest appeals court upheld the convictions of nine medical professionals, and the six with time still left to serve on their sentences have now been sent to prison, as they have exhausted all legal appeals.

US law prohibits the government from providing military assistance to countries implicated in human rights violations. Although a $53 million arms deal with Bahrain is now on hold, the Obama administration has continued to offer smaller arms sales as well as other forms of military assistance, notwithstanding the Bahraini government’s lack of progress toward improving the country’s human rights situation.

PHR now calls on the administration and members of Congress to condemn in the strongest possible terms the imprisonment of the medical professionals, to support their immediate release from prison, and to take steps to ensure that military assistance to Bahrain is suspended until that country can show that it is taking seriously its repeated commitments to conform to international human rights standards.

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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Kevin Short

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