For Immediate Release
PHR today expressed dismay at the decision by Bahrain’s Lower Criminal Court to sentence 23 health professionals to three months in prison on charges of illegally gathering during Arab spring protests in 2011. Five others were acquitted.
“We are disappointed, though not surprised, that the Bahraini regime once again has decided to punish health professionals merely for expressing their right to peaceful assembly,” said Richard Sollom, deputy director of PHR. “Instead of punishing these dedicated professionals, the Government of Bahrain should focus on prosecuting the people responsible for torturing many of those who were arrested and detained.”
The 23 people convicted today include 12 physicians, as well as nurses and other health professionals. All are expected to appeal their convictions. Four other health professionals whose appeals were denied in October are in prison serving sentences ranging from one to five years.
“It’s now been a year since the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released its report, and the government’s pledge to carry out the commission’s recommendations has been shown to be hollow,” Sollom said. “Once again, we call on the regime to reverse the convictions of all health professionals, to expunge those convictions from their records, to restore them to their jobs, and to compensate them for the time they lost in having to challenge these spurious charges.”
The commission, established by the king to investigate charges of human rights abuses, recommended that the government review and commute the sentences of all persons charged with offenses involving peaceful political expression and to drop any outstanding charges against them.
Since early 2011, PHR health teams have visited Bahrain three times to document human rights abuses, including systematic attacks on health professionals and patients.
“None of these health professionals belongs in prison,” said Sollom. “How long must it take for the Government of Bahrain to reform its security and judicial systems to ensure that all of its citizens can enjoy freedom and justice?”
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.