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In Scotland we have a tradition of coming together to celebrate Hogmanay. It is a time to celebrate friendship, for Auld Lang Syne, and to think of our hopes and resolutions for the New Year.
This will be the third New Year that my friend and former colleague Abdulhadi Al Khawaja will celebrate in prison in Bahrain where he is serving a life sentence for speaking out for human rights.
It has of course taken far too long but the decision of the High Court in London to allow three Kenyans to proceed with a civil claim against the UK Government for torture is very welcome news. Sadly many of the victims that the UK now admits were tortured have not lived long enough to see this significant step towards accountability. The UK Government should now abandon their shameful attempts to deny liability and accept their responsibility.
It is absolutely indefensible that the Bahraini Government have jailed Dr Ali Al Ekri, Dr. Ghassam Dhaif and four other medics today in a dawn raid after their sentences were upheld by the final appeal court yesterday. If it wasn't so outrageous, it would be laughable - who would have thought that anywhere in the world, medics would be arrested for treating patients and exercising their right to freedom of assembly?
When I met these doctors, after their release on bail pending a review of their trials in a civilian court, it was clear to me that they were caring compassionate professionals – their discussion focussing on the injuries to the protestors and the need for medical care.
They did not focus on the horrific treatment they received while in detention – such as brutal beatings and threats to family members, and confessions extracted while handcuffed and blindfolded. All one needs is a quick read of the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry to see the pervasive and systematic use of torture.
Dr. Al Ekri, aged 45, is a senior consultant paediatric orthopedic surgeon. He completed his postgraduate training in Dublin, Ireland (1999-2002) at the RCSI .