The international community of professional health care providers was shocked when military courts in Bahrain convicted their colleagues for assisting protesters in 2011. The Bahraini public prosecutor reversed the sentences and the professionals were tried in civilian courts, which handed down long jail sentences. CCS urged Bahraini authorities to reinstate all of the defendants in their professional positions pending their appeals and to ensure that the appeal proceedings of health professionals comply with international standards for fair trial, in accordance with the recommendations of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) established to investigate the events following the protests. Finally, in view of the BICI findings of torture and mistreatment of health professionals, we strongly urged that all criminal indictments against these professionals be dismissed.
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March 30, 2012
His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Office of His Majesty the King
PO Box 555, Rifa’a Palace,
Isa Town Central, Kingdom of Bahrain
We are an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world. We write now in concern about health professionals from the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama.
As you know, many health professionals from the Salmaniya Medical Complex were arrested because of their activities during protests at and near the Medical Complex in February and March of 2011. Although we understand that these individuals have been released from prison, many remain under court supervision, having been convicted of various crimes under Bahraini law. Even after the Public Prosecutor invalidated their military court sentences, twenty of these health professionals were convicted of felonies by civilian courts and now face prison sentences of five to fifteen years.
Your Majesty established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to investigate these events, to determine if there were violations of international human rights laws and norms, and to make recommendations as deemed appropriate. The BICI thoroughly analyzed the events surrounding the February and March 2011 protests and found that allegations of prolonged incommunicado detention, mistreatment of detainees, and torture were substantiated. Of the medical examinations performed for the BICI that confirmed torture and mistreatment, eight have recently been released by the courts to the defendants, according to Physicians for Human Rights. The other medical reports performed for BICI remain sealed.
We agree with United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Michael Posner, that your initiation of the Commission process is a great credit to you. Moreover, we join Assistant Secretary Posner in urging you to implement those recommendations by dropping criminal charges against all persons accused of offenses involving political expression such as these professionals.
In addition, according to Amnesty International, lawyers defending the health care professionals in civilian courts have encountered serious obstacles in obtaining fair trials for their clients. The lawyers claim that they were not able to call defense witnesses of their choice, were not allowed sufficient time to prepare, and especially, that they have been denied the opportunity to have independent confirmation of their clients’ claims of torture and mistreatment, except for the eight cases cited above. The health care professionals under indictments have also lost their jobs and continue to suffer serious financial hardship.
We urge you to reinstate all of the defendants in their professional positions pending their appeals. We also urge you to ensure that the appeal proceedings of health professionals comply with international standards for fair trial and to respect the defendants’ right of freedom of expression and assembly, in accordance with the recommendations of the BICI. Finally, in view of the BICI findings of torture and mistreatment of health professionals, we strongly urge that all criminal indictments against these professionals be dismissed.
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa
Office of the Prime Minister
P.O. Box 1000, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 175 33 033
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 175 31 284
The Hon. Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of Democracy, Labor and Human Rights
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520