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Upcoming Medics Appeal Verdict Will Test Bahrain’s Commitment to Human Rights Reform
WASHINGTON - June 11 - Human Rights First today said that this coming Thursday’s verdict in the appeal of 20 medics sentenced to long prison terms by the Bahrain military court for treating protestors injured in last year’s uprising is a telling moment in testing the Bahrain authorities’ commitment to true human rights reform.
“These medics were sentenced to long jail terms just for doing their job and fulfilling their obligations under the Hippocratic Oath,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who has monitored the medics’ cases since it began. “The authorities in Bahrain have has an opportunity on Thursday to demonstrate a commitment to human rights and to show the world they are serious about correcting errors made in the past. They must not let it slip by.”
The case of the 20 medics has generated significant media attention since September 29, 2011, when the medics were sentenced to terms of between 5 and 15 years in prison at the conclusion of an unfair military court trial. The male and female medics maintain that they were tortured into making the false confessions that led to their conviction. After an international outcry, the medics were granted an appeal in a civilian court. It is this verdict that is due on Thursday, June 14. The 20 medics have been out of detention during their appeal.
One of those waiting to hear her fate is Rula Al Saffar, head of the Bahrain Nurses Association. Al Saffar, who spent 18 years working and training in the United States, told Human Rights First, “’The US Government knows our case and has sent representatives to monitor our trial. It has seen what a charade it has been, and it should say so. It should speak out clearly for medical neutrality and against the targeting of medics during conflicts. We are only 20 of the dozens of medics being prosecuted in Bahrain – some are still in prison.”
Human Rights First has closely monitored the case of the medics. During one of four trips to the Kingdom during the past year, Dooley observed one of the appeal proceedings. He observes, “This is the most famous case of those targeted in Bahrain’s ongoing human rights crackdown. It is an emblematic case as these are 20 of the 502 people convicted by the unfair military court last year. Hundreds of civilians tell the same story as the medics, of having been tortured into making false confessions and given a show trial. What happens Thursday will be a good indication of what the Bahraini authorities intend to do with the rest of these cases. The convictions against the medics should be quashed, charges against them dropped and those who tortured them held accountable.”