- For defenders
- How can I help?
Bahrain: Cautious welcome for announcement of new trial for medical professionals, but concern mounts for welfare of prisoners denied medical treatment
Following the international outcry over the sentencing of 20 medical professionals to sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years the Attorney General of Bahrain has announced that the medics will now have a new trial before a civilian court.
Front Line Defenders welcomes this positive news while treating it with due caution given the failure of the Bahraini Government to honour previous commitments to transfer all outstanding cases to civilian courts and to reinstate those people who had been dismissed from their jobs because of their alleged participation in the pro-democracy demonstrations.
This announcement does nothing to address the fact that human rights defenders, political activists, health professionals and trade unionists have been subjected to summary justice, arrested on trumped up charges, held incommunicado, tortured and denied access to their lawyers and families. To date 208 people have been sentenced to prison terms – while one person has been sentenced to death.
Front Line Defenders is outraged at the refusal of the prison authorities in Bahrain to provide medical treatment for human rights defenders and political activists currently on the 13th day of their hunger strike. The prisoners include former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and are demanding the release of all women political prisoners in Bahrain.
As the hunger strike enters its 13th day Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned at the deteriorating health of some of the prisoners. One prisoner was told by the prison guards that the denial of medical treatment was punishment for them going on hunger strike.
The 13 prisoners are taking tea and water only and are demanding the release of all women political prisoners in Bahrain.
The failure to provide medical care for the prisoners on hunger strike is in breach of all international standards for the fair treatment of prisoners.
Front Line Defenders is calling on Professor Cherif Bassiouni and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to intervene directly with the Bahraini authorities to ensure compliance with international law.
Professor Bassiouni has previously brought in independent expert on hunger strikes Dr Sondra Crosby to monitor previous hunger strikes. Dr Crosby should be given immediate access to Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and the other prisoners who should also be given full access to all necessary medical treatment.
The authorities have so far refused to address any of these issues and while welcoming this recent announcement regarding trials before a civilian court the credibility of this commitment can only be measured against the standard of past practice.
King Hamad and his government must decide whether or not they are committed to upholding the rule of law and the international human rights standards to which they are committed.
Front Line Defenders urges the Government of Bahrain to take concrete steps to ensure that all the findings by the Independent Commission of Enquiry, whose final report will be published later this month, are fully addressed.