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For Immediate Release

Government of Bahrain Charges Two Officers with Torture of Medics

Cambridge, Mass. - 09/19/2012

PHR welcomes the decision this week by the Bahraini public prosecutor to charge two police officers in connection with the torture of medical professionals arrested during popular protests a year and a half ago. Yet that achievement is tarnished by the government’s continuing violation of medical neutrality by denying access to medical care for people aligned with opposition groups.

PHR encourages Bahraini authorities to conduct the investigation in a thorough, impartial, and transparent manner. Such an investigation would represent a significant shift on the part of the government, which has made little progress toward accountability for torture in the 10 months since the release of the Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). That report recommended independent and impartial investigations of alleged acts of torture by Bahraini security forces against civilians.

The Bahraini authorities still have significant progress to make to address the crimes against peaceful civilian protesters. PHR calls on the Government of Bahrain to immediately implement the remaining recommendations of the BICI Report, including establishing a mechanism to investigate allegations of excessive use of force, training security forces in UN best practices, and appropriately compensating victims of torture and ill treatment.

Additionally, the Government of Bahrain must take all necessary steps to ensure access to health care for its population by demilitarizing hospitals and making them safe places for all patients to seek medical treatment.

The inability of some people to access essential medical services drove Haleema Al-Sabagh, a nurse assistant, to take medical supplies from Salmaniya Hospital to treat injured protesters off-site, even though the removal of the supplies violated Bahraini law. The 35-year-old mother of a 2-year-old, who was arrested in January 2012, was sentenced this week to one year in prison.

PHR has previously reported on the Government of Bahrain’s violations of medical neutrality in the aftermath of the protests, including the arrest, detention, and unfair trials of the medics and the militarization of the country’s main hospital.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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