For Immediate Release: March 28, 2013
Washington, D.C. – This morning the Bahrain regime handed down acquittals in the case of 23 Bahraini medics who were appealing their politically-motivated sentences. Human Rights First notes that this is a welcome step forward but that the Bahraini government urgently needs to explain why dozens of medics confessed to crimes they did not commit, and who forced them to confess. The medics had been charged with taking part in “illegal assemblies” in an appeal verdict.
“These acquittals are welcome and horribly late,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “A year after their trial started, two years after the alleged incidents, these medics have finally been vindicated after being mistreated or tortured in custody.”
Human Rights First calls on the Bahrain government to publicly identify which senior officials ordered torture to be used, and for those people to be held accountable.
The targeting of the Bahraini medics is one of the most widely-reported signs of injustice since the peaceful uprising began two years ago. Though those acquitted in today’s appeal verdict had not been detained, several other Bahraini medics have remained in prison after separate convictions in cases stemming from perceived association with the protests. Just last week, the international group Doctors Without Borders canceled a planned conference in Bahrain that would have discussed the challenges faced by medical staff in the Middle East and other countries with political instability. The conference was canceled because, according to the group, “Today in Bahrain it is not possible for medical professionals and international impartial participants to have a conversation about medical ethics.”
Despite today’s acquittal, Bahrain’s problems continue. Some of its highest profile dissidents have embarked on prison hunger strikes. Prominent human rights activists Abdulhadi al Khawaja and his daughter, Zainab al Khawaja, are both in jail on politically-motivated charges and are hunger-striking in protest at prison conditions.