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For Immediate Release

Retrial Ordered for 21 Defendants in Bahrain Including Hunger Striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

PHR concerned about reported force feeding of al-Khawaja

Cambridge, Mass. - 04/30/2012

Following news reports that leading Bahraini opposition activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and 20 other activists will be retried in civil court, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called today for a fair and open trial for all those who have been charged by the court.

Of the 20 activists, 13 are still being detained, while 7 were tried in absentia.

“This is only a positive step if it is a genuine retrial, and not an appeal of a flawed trial where confessions based on torture were admitted as evidence,” said Richard Sollom, Deputy Director at PHR. “We have seen these hollow promises before, when Bahraini medics were ordered to be given a retrial, but instead merely received a chance to appeal their sentences. If this ruling is legitimate, it must be fully enforced,” said Richard Sollom.

Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison last June by a military court and has since led an 82-day hunger strike protesting his imprisonment and torture. Recent reports have indicated that al-Khawaja is being force fed, which amounts to torture. 

“Force feeding is a flagrant violation of a patient’s medical autonomy and when conducted by a physician against the patient’s will, it is torture, according to the World Medical Association,” said Sollom. “This weak and vulnerable prisoner of conscious, who’s reportedly being forcibly fed, should be released from prison and given immediate access to independent medical care while he awaits retrial.”

PHR renews its calls for al-Khwawaja’s life sentence to be expunged and his immediate and unconditional release.  PHR also calls for the release of the other 13 opposition activists, currently in detention, who are scheduled to be retried before the court of appeals.

PHR remains extremely concerned about the more than 400 current political detainees in Bahrain.

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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