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.

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Tuberculosis’ deadly return to Europe

Feature article appeared in the EUobserver on 15 February, 2010.

Vladimir appears as an unwrapped mummy, a skeleton of a man whose paper skin pulls taught over his Siberian bones. Top off, in stocking feet and navy Adidas track bottoms, he lies on his side as a nurse sponges the wounds left from the surgery he’s had to remove some ribs to let his one lung – the other also removed by the doctors – breathe more easily. He has an ancient sickness, tuberculosis, but his is a wretched new mutation of the disease that now seems impervious to almost all of mankind’s very much ageing weapons against it.

The 50-year-old former oil driller from Strezhevoy, a Rosneft company town in the far northwest of the Tomsk Oblast, is nevertheless surprisingly upbeat and chatty. “I suppose I’ll never run a marathon now,” he jokes, “I just wish I could at least walk a few metres without losing my breath.”

He’s been in the Tomsk TB hospital undergoing treatment for a disease against which very few drugs work at all for four years now. He complains that four years is a long time for a hospital whose library doesn’t have much of a selection, but he’s happy his wife has not left him “as, you know, it happens a lot in Russia,” and that she and his children come to visit. Continue reading →