Attacks on Doctors in Bahrain
Under the Gun: Ongoing Assaults on Bahrain’s Health System
In February 2011, the Government of Bahrain began targeting health professionals who treated protesters. In April 2012, PHR's Richard Sollom, Deputy Director, and Holly Atkinson, MD, FACP, past President of PHR's Board and volunteer expert, authored a report showing the devastation on Bahrain's health system that have resulted from the Government of Bahrain’s continued assault on doctors, patients, and the healthcare system.
> Read the Report (pdf)
Thousands of protesters in the small island Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf took to the streets calling for government reform in February and March 2011. The Bahraini government’s response was brutal and systematic: shoot civilian protesters, detain and torture them, and erase all evidence.
On the frontline, treating hundreds of these wounded civilians, doctors had first-hand knowledge of government atrocities. As a result of their efforts to provide unbiased care for wounded protestors, the government initiated systematic and targeted attacks against medical personnel. This assault on healthcare workers and their patients constitutes extreme violations of the principle of medical neutrality and are grave breaches of international law.
PHR went to Bahrain to investigate and document these attacks. Our investigators spoke with eyewitnesses of abducted physicians, some of whom were ripped from their homes in the middle of the night by masked security forces. Our report, Do No Harm, documents other violations of medical neutrality including the beating, abuse, and threatening of Shi’a physicians at Salmaniya Hospital; government security forces stealing ambulances and posing as medics; the militarization of hospitals and clinics, thus obstructing medical care; and rampant fear that prevents patients from seeking urgent medical treatment. Other key findings in the report include the use excessive force against unarmed civilians and violent assaults on civilian detainees by government authorities and security forces.
Medicine and delivery of health care should unite rather than divide a country. There are immeasurable long-term consequences of these atrocities. For each doctor, nurse, or medic that the government disappears, many more civilians’ lives are impacted as patients go untreated. Bahrain’s abuses in the spring of 2011 are the most extreme violations of medical neutrality in the past half century, and history will remember them as such.
Read Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients
- The Principle of Medical Neutrality
- Medics on Trial in Bahrain
- Read PHR's Summer/Fall Newsletter, featuring the Bahrain investigation.
On Human Rights Day, PHR Highlights Priorities for the Administration (December 10, 2013)
On Human Rights Day, PHR highlighted the need for the U.S. government to address several pressing issues in order to protect fundamental freedoms and promote the United States’ position as a beacon for human rights.
U.S. Official Misses Opportunity to Address Human Rights Issues in Bahrain (December 9, 2013)
PHR today expressed concern that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel failed to publicly prioritize human rights in Bahrain during a major event in the kingdom.
PHR Reiterates Call to Release Imprisoned Medics in Bahrain and Stop Shipment of Tear Gas (November 22, 2013)
PHR today reaffirmed its call to the Bahraini government to immediately release medical professionals who have been wrongfully prisoned and stop the ongoing targeting of the medical community.
Human Rights Groups Call to End Impunity for Attacks on Health Workers (September 20, 2013)
The United Nations Human Rights Council should strengthen documentation and accountability for the growing number of attacks on health workers, the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, a group of human rights, health professional and other nongovernmental groups, said today.
Along with many of my medical colleagues, I have been appalled to read recent news accounts of Turkish doctors being arrested, questioned, and threatened with having their medical licenses revoked merely for treating protesters wounded in clashes with security forces in Istanbul. We have also been encouraged, however, to see the Turkish Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Central Council respond so forcefully to the Ministry of Health’s attempts to discourage physicians from treating protesters engaged in “illegal” activities.
The cancellation of an international medical ethics conference that had been scheduled for April 10-12 in Bahrain is another sign that the country’s rulers continue a systematic pattern of politicizing medical affairs.
Stained Glass Transparency: Bahrain’s Latest Obfuscation of International Human Rights Accountability (April 25, 2013)
Bahrain has again indefinitely postponed a visit by the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, the latest in a series of attempts to deter human rights observers from scrutinizing the kingdom’s dismal human records record. The government told the rapporteur, Juan Méndez, that his visit could be “immensely damaging” to the Bahrain National Dialogue, an initiative that should welcome such a visit if it truly seeks to promote reform.
Capitol Hill Briefing Spotlights Bahrain’s Lack of Progress in Bolstering Human Rights (November 15, 2012)
Nearly one year after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released a report recommending legal and policy changes to improve human rights in that country, the kingdom’s regime has failed to live up to its pledge to implement those changes, according to panelists at a Congressional briefing Wednesday.
A Message from Behind Bars in Bahrain (November 2013)
Three medics currently jailed in Bahrain, Ibrahim Aldemestani, Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, and Hassan Salman Al-Maatouq, wrote this letter calling on the world to recognize their unjust imprisonment for upholding principles of medical neutrality.
Introduction to Medical Neutrality (November 2013)
This fact sheet provides an overview of medical neutrality, the ethics and laws behind it, and PHR’s reporting on when it’s violated.
Medical Neutrality and the Use of Weaponized Tear Gas in Bahrain (November 2013)
The Bahraini government’s response to the early 2011 pro-democracy protests was brutal, systematic, and violent. This fact sheet provides an overview of Bahrain’s violations of medical neutrality and its weaponized use of tear gas.
Two Senators and 22 Representatives jointly signed a letter to the King of Bahrain today, calling on him to pardon eight medical professionals convicted for providing medical care to injured protesters.