For Immediate Release: September 29, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today criticized the Bahrain military court for its decision to sentence 20 doctors and other medical professionals who treated injured pro-democracy protestors to long prison terms. The group said the sentences, which range between five and 15 years in prison, make a mockery of Bahrain’s legal process.
“I met with many people in Bahrain who were detained, including several of the medics sentenced today. They gave consistent and credible accounts of being tortured into giving confessions,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The military court has refused to hear evidence about that abuse and has otherwise fallen far short of credible legal standards. The United States Government and other nations sent representatives to observe these military trials. They saw for themselves what a charade they were. Now, it is time for them to break their deafening silence and say so publicly. It is also time for the Obama Administration and Congress to reconsider a proposed new arms sale of TOW missiles and Humvees to Bahrain.”
Like many other civilians targeted during the government crackdown on peaceful protests, the medics sentenced today were tried in a military court. Many were held in incommunicado detention for several weeks without access to lawyers or family. They claim their confessions were extracted under torture.
Among the medics sentenced today to 15 years in prison is Roula Al-Saffar, the head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, who spent over four months in custody before her court proceedings began. 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.
“The targeting of medical professionals in this way is unprecedented,” said Dooley. “In attacking those who help the injured, the Bahraini government has set a new low in repressive response to peaceful protest.”