Bahrain and Syria jail medical workers to undermine protests

News article published on the Nature News Blog on 14 June, 2012.

Bahrain and Syria are imprisoning doctors for treating wounded anti-regime protesters, a tactic that aims at extinguishing medical neutrality in order to undermine anti-regime protests, the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies has warned.

On Thursday 14 June, a group of Bahraini physicians lost an appeal against lengthy convictions for alleged violent opposition activity, amongst other charges, accusations that the network, which campaigns against human rights violations and unjust imprisonment of scientists, scholars, engineers, and health professionals, say were trumped up and intended to intimidate health professionals.

Doctors brought in by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, an international expert group established in June last year, examined eight of the accused and found evidence of torture, including electric shocks and severe beatings. The others allege that they, too, were tortured to extract “confessions”, but independent doctors have not been permitted to examine them.

“By denying them medical care, the regime clearly doesn’t want the wounded protesters to survive,” the network’s executive director, Carol Corillon, told Nature. “If protesters know they won’t receive medical treatment, they’ll think twice about heading into the streets.”

“This is a flagrant violation of medical neutrality,” she added.

Bahrain’s top appeals court reduced a military court’s 5–15 year sentences to between 1 month and 5 years for 9 doctors from Salmaniya Medical Complex hospital, the largest in the capital, where protesters had fled during the height of anti-government protests in February last year.

To read the rest of the article, visit the Nature website.