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.
Landmark United Nations General Assembly Resolution Calls for the Protection of Health Workers from Violence (December 15, 2014)
A resolution passed last week by the United Nations General Assembly recognizes for the first time the severity of attacks on health workers, facilities, and patients in all circumstances, and demands respect by States for provisions of medical ethics and human rights law, as well as international humanitarian law, said the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition.
Physicians for Human Rights Welcomes Lifting of Travel Ban for Bahraini Human Rights Activist (October 1, 2014)
PHR today welcomed the decision by a Bahraini court to lift the travel ban on Maryam al-Khawaja, but remained concerned about the spurious charges that remain against her.
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.
Unbiased Health Care Stifled in Bahrain (April 30, 2015)
The release of Ibrahim al-Demestani, a nurse imprisoned by Bahraini authorities, is the latest chapter in the government’s ongoing campaign against health professionals. While his release should be celebrated, al-Demestani should never have been imprisoned and forced to complete a three-year sentence in the first place.
Will Bahrain Get Away with It Again? (December 3, 2014)
As the Bahraini authorities continue to violate human rights and target rights defenders, the United States should leverage the re-admission of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski to Bahrain as an opportunity to ask the Bahraini government to fulfill their international human rights obligations.
The United States and Its Unafraid Ally, Bahrain (September 19, 2014)
The United States, a long-time ally of the al-Khalifa regime currently governing Bahrain, is in a unique position to pressure the country to change its policies. The United States must take concrete action to condemn the Bahraini regime for its ongoing human rights violations.
Impunity and Lack of Transparency Fuel Assault on Medics in Bahrain (March 16, 2014)
Three years ago today, Bahraini security forces entered Salmaniya Medical Complex - the largest public hospital in Bahrain. In a flagrant violation of the right to health, security forces interfered with medical services and refused entry to the injured and sick.
Open Letter to the Government of Bahrain (March 2015)
Physicians for Human Rights, partner organizations, and human rights activists call on the government on Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience in the country in the aftermath of the 2011 popular uprising.
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.