For Immediate Release: January 26, 2012
Washington, DC –The group of 20 Bahraini medics convicted by the dictatorship’s military court in September have had their next appeal hearing date suddenly moved-up to Monday, Jan. 30. This hearing gives the Bahrain regime a golden opportunity to show the world it is serious about human rights reform, said Human Rights First.
The regime targeted the medics for their treatment of pro-democracy protestors in February and March of 2011 and for telling the international media the truth about attacks on the demonstrators. They were informed earlier this week that their next appeal hearing, initially scheduled for March 19, would instead take place to Jan 30.
One of those detained and tortured into making a false confession is Dr. Nada Dhaif. She was sentenced to 15 years by the military court in a trial that fell well below recognizable legal standards. She told Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, “We were totally surprised when they brought the hearing forward. I think this was done so that no international observers would be there to witness the sham trial – they’ve been shut out until March. It’s hard to know what will happen and, with all the disappointments we’ve had this last year, it’s hard to be optimistic. But we’ll keep on struggling and praying.”
February promises to be a vitally important month for the regime. The anniversary of Bahrain’s Arab Spring falls on the 14th and major protests are expected around that time.
Last week, Dooley was denied entry to Bahrain. He notes, “The fear is that the Bahraini government wants to keep observers out during this sensitive period. The dictatorship has some serious decisions to make – will it react with widespread violence like last year or will it show the world it has changed by allowing peaceful protests? Dropping the charges against the doctors would be a useful first step in showing it’s not going to be the same old repression as usual.”
Dooley also noted that Human Rights First is calling on the Bahraini government to immediately launch an investigation into who tortured the medics while they were in custody.
In recent weeks protestors have been attacked the police using tear gas, resulting in several deaths. There have also been fresh reports of torture in custody. The Bahrain regime admitted today that another man has died in custody in recent days. It did not elaborate or give further details about that incident.
“A month from now, we’ll know if the Bahrain regime’s claims to have changed are real or bogus,” concluded Dooley. “Monday is a key indicator. If the medics aren’t freed and the charges dropped the world can expect the violent crackdown to continue.”