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PHR Report on Bahrain Provides First Forensic Evidence of Attacks on Physicians, Medical Staff, Patients and Unarmed Civilians with Weapons, Beatings, and Tear Gas

For Immediate Release

Cambridge, Mass.— Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today released an emergency report whichdocuments and decries systematic human rights abuses in Bahrain. For the firsttime, the report, Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients, providesforensic evidence of attacks on physicians, medical staff, patients and unarmedcivilians with the use of bird shot, physical beatings, rubber bullets, teargas, and unidentified chemical agents.

“The excessive use offorce against unarmed civilians, patients in hospitals and medical personnelthat PHR’s investigators documented is extremely troubling and is cause for animmediate international investigation,” said Hans Hogrefe, Washington Directorof Physicians for Human Rights. “Attacks on hospitals, ambulances, and medicalclinics are attacks on the very fabric of the community and harm the health ofthe whole country. Physicians have an ethical responsibility to care for andtreat all people, and must be afforded the right to perform these duties.”

The report details systematic andcoordinated attacks against medical personnel, as a result of their efforts toprovide unbiased care for wounded protestors. These attacks violate theprinciple of “medical neutrality” and are grave breaches of international lawwhich dictate noninterference with medical services in times of civil unrest.

“While in Bahrain, I spoke withseveral eyewitnesses of abducted physicians, many of whom were ripped fromtheir homes in the middle of the night by masked security forces,” said RichardSollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights and author of the report.“Although every attack we documented is troubling, attacks on medicalprofessionals are particularly disturbing because they also impact the five, 10,or 15 people that could have been helped or treated by that doctor, nurse, or medic.”

The report also includes documentation of other violationsof medical neutrality including the beating, abuse, and threatening of sixShi’a physicians at Salmaniya Hospital; egregious abuses against patients anddetainees including torture, beating, verbal abuse, humiliation, and threats ofrape and killing; government security forces stealing ambulances and posing asmedics; the militarization of hospitals and clinics which has resulted in theobstruction of medical care; and rampant fear that prevents patients fromseeking urgent medical treatment.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Security forces deploying excessive use of force including high-velocity weapons and shotguns, while using birdshot, rubber bullets, and tear gas against unarmed civilians – often at a close range. One story highlighted in the report details attacks on guests at a wedding.
  • Bahraini forces releasing tear gas in enclosed spaces, including homes.
  • Security forces’ use of unidentified chemical agents which cause disorientation, aphasia, and convulsions.
  • Attacks on patients including one story of the beating, torture, and interrogation of a dozen patients in the hospital by masked security forces.
  • Forensic evidence indicating detainees were violently assaulted while in custody.

The report concludes with policy recommendations forBahrain, the United States and the international community. Among other callsfor action, PHR demands for Bahrain toimmediately cease and desist all attacks on medical personnel and facilities.PHR also calls on the Obama Administration to lead an internationaleffort to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Violations of Medical Neutralitythrough the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The findings of the report arebased on a one-week investigation which included 47 interviews with patients,physicians, nurses, medical technicians, and other eyewitnesses to human rightsviolations. The report was written by Richard Sollom, PHR Deputy Director, and Dr. Nizam Peerwani, senior forensic pathologist and chief medical examiner for Tarrant County, Texas, and advisor to PHR's International Forensic Program.

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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