For Immediate Release
PHR strongly condemns today’s refusal by Bahrain’s highest appeals court to overturn prison sentences for nine medical professionals convicted as a result of providing medical care last year to people protesting against the country’s regime.
“Today’s court decision is a serious setback in the Bahraini government’s progress toward respecting and promoting human rights,” said Richard Sollom, deputy director of PHR. “How long will it take for the Bahraini regime to recognize that its stated commitment to true justice and political reform rings hollow as long as it continues to imprison medical professionals who were simply carrying out their ethical duties to treat all injured people?”
The nine medics are part of a group of 20 medical professionals arrested and tried on felony charges stemming from the Bahraini government's crackdown on a wave of citizen protests that began in February 2011. Nine were acquitted in June, two remain at large, and several others were released after serving short sentences. Six more, who received sentences ranging from two months to five years, now face imprisonment.
The six were not immediately taken into custody after the court’s verdict, and it remains unclear whether or when the sentences will be carried out. But they have now exhausted all legal appeals.
PHR has visited Bahrain three times to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, which it has documented in three reports, dealing with the arrest and torture of physicians, the militarization of hospitals, and the weaponization of tear gas by the Bahraini regime.
“Upholding the conviction of these medical professionals on spurious politically motivated charges continues the government’s broad and systematic attack on the country’s health system,” Sollom said. “Bahrain’s allies—especially the United States—should exert maximum pressure on the Bahraini authorities to end these gross violations of medical neutrality.”
“His Royal Highness, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah now has the power to correct the injustice committed by his country’s legal system by ordering that the prison sentences not be carried out,” Sollom added. “PHR urges him to promptly take that step toward restoring justice for these wrongly accused and convicted medical professionals.”
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.