For Immediate Release: September 8, 2011
Washington, DC – The military trial of 20 doctors and other medics who treated injured protestors during pro-democracy protests resumed this week, further undermining Bahrain’s claim to respect human rights. The remaining doctors who had been in detention – some for many months – were released, but the charges against them still remain. Some are in extremely poor health after 9 days on hunger strike and are need of immediate medical treatment. Despite assurances that these cases would be tried in civilian courts, the cases are slated to proceed in military court and verdicts are anticipated by Sept. 29.
“Trying civilians in military courts that offer inadequate legal protections is a sham process,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “It exposes the Bahraini Government’s real intentions to crack down on peaceful activists. The United States Government should publicly condemn these trials and make clear that Bahrain’s decision to prosecute people for peacefully expressing their views will have consequences for the relationship between the United States and Bahrain.”
The Bahraini authorities announced on June 26 that they were transferring all cases from military courts to civilian courts. On August 18, government authorities made an about-face and announced that the doctors would be tried in a military court. Bahrain’s military court does not meet international standards for a fair trial.
Among those on trial is Roula Al-Saffar, the head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, who spent four months in detention before her release last year. She studied at Widener University in Pennsylvania and at the University of North Texas. She also worked for many years as a nurse at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
“In July, I spoke to several of the medics who have been detained, including Roula and others on trial today, “ said Dooley. “I heard credible, detailed and consistent stories from them of torture in detention. The United States should not be aligned with a regime that perpetuates such abuses.”