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For Immediate Release

Trial of Bahraini Medics is Still Flawed, Says PHR

Continues to call for qualified forensic and medical evaluations of all medics and detainees

Cambridge, Mass. - 01/09/2012

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today called the trial of Bahraini medics accused of overthrowing the regime and other felonies “severely flawed.”

Despite allegations that the medics’ confessions were obtained through torture, the prosecutor refused to confirm that he will drop the medics’ confessions during today’s trial. PHR has continually called for qualified forensic and medical evaluations of all detainees in Bahrain using the gold standard of torture investigations – the U.N. Istanbul Protocol, which PHR helped to develop. 

“Senior Bahraini cabinet members assured PHR that the medics would be given a brand new trial in a civilian court and that any confessions made during detention would be thrown out of court. What happened today proves that these were hollow promises and this new trial appears to be a continuation of the severely flawed military trial that first convicted the medics based on confessions that resulted from torture,” said PHR’s Deputy Director Richard Sollom. “Given that the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report found evidence of torture and the prosecutor openly acknowledged the allegations of torture in court today, all confessions must be thrown out. All medics and detainees should be examined by a forensic expert for evidence of psychological and physical torture.” 

Over the weekend, Bahraini border authorities refused Sollom entrance into Bahrain to monitor the trial of medics who provided care for protestors during popular uprisings last year.

“If the government of Bahrain was genuinely committed to improving human rights, they wouldn’t be blocking independent human rights observers from entering the country,” said Richard Sollom.

The developments in today’s trial add to the growing list of human rights concerns in Bahrain. Today, the U.S. State Department said the government of Bahrain should investigate reports of excessive force used against demonstrators, following reports that Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was beaten by security forces responding to demonstrations last week. Recently, continued violent attacks on demonstrators including the excessive and inappropriate use of tear gas have also been reported.

The medics who are awaiting trial are facing continued harassment, discrimination, and financial hardship since they cannot resume their jobs with government or work in the private sector.

“As always, words are not enough when it comes to protecting human rights,” said PHR's Chief Policy Officer, Hans Hogrefe. “Bahrain needs to act in a manner that is consistent with the King’s promise to uphold human rights. The continued reliance on confessions derived from torture, the lack of fair and open trails, and the continued use of force against the people of Bahrain—these are not the signs of a government committed to human rights.”

PHR continues to call on the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, ensure fair and open trials, and stop all ongoing police raids and the excessive use of force against civilian protesters.

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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