Three years ago today, Bahraini security forces entered Salmaniya Medical Complex – the largest public hospital in Bahrain. In a flagrant violation of the right to health, security forces interfered with medical services and refused entry to the injured and sick. Over the next few months, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documented the government's systematic attacks on medics, including those who had offered help to peaceful anti-government protestors.
The culture of impunity in Bahrain has enabled gross violations of medical neutrality – the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of armed conflict and civil unrest – including detainment, arrest, and torture. PHR has followed the medics on trial in Bahrain since 2011. Many were tried, convicted, and sentenced, often on baseless charges, while others were abducted, detained, and released without charge. The lack of media attention on Bahrain is not a result of improving conditions. At least three medics swept up in the original wave of arrests remain in prison. In addition, in December 2013, Sayid al-Alawid, an assistant nurse, was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Khassem Bedah, a medical technician, has been illegally detained since August 2013, and charges have yet to be brought against him. These individuals face awful conditions in prison. According to a Bahraini human rights organization, prisoners have been tortured and are often denied medical care and legal counsel.
Bahrain must immediately stop the deliberate targeting of medical personnel and medical facilities. The government must also allow unimpeded access for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on its upcoming visit, as well as greater transparency into conditions of detention. After three years of injustice, the culture of impunity in Bahrain must be directly addressed by the international community.