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Written by HRDs and Journalists
Bahrain: Six medical professionals arrested and imprisoned for the legitimate exercise of their profession
On 2 October 2012, six medical professionals and human rights defenders were arrested in Bahrain following early morning raids on their homes. Their arrests came a day after the Court of Cassation in Manama upheld the prison sentences of nine doctors and nurses for the legitimate exercise of their profession and their right to freedom of expression during last year’s protests.
Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, a senior consultant paediatric orthopaedic surgeon, initially arrested from the operating theatre of Salmaniya hospital last year, was sentenced to five years in prison for "possession and concealment" of weapons and "illegal assembly". Mr. Ibrahim Al-Demistani was sentenced to three years in prison; Dr. Ghassan Dhaif and Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji to one year in prison while Dr. Mahmoud Asghar and Ms. Dheya Ibrahim Abu Idris were sentenced to six and two months respectively. They were convicted on unsubstantiated charges including promoting the change of the political regime by force, instigating sectarian hatred and the illegal detention of persons.
The six medical professionals were among those arrested and detained in 2011 because they provided medical assistance to pro reform protestors, who had sustained injuries during the protests at the hands of Bahraini police, and had spoken out about the injuries, which they had seen. The trials of the medical professionals were in breach of international fair trial standards. Furthermore, while in detention they were subjected to torture and ill-treatment as documented in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report and their families were threatened. Following international public outcry the six were released on bail pending the appeal before the civil courts which delivered its verdict on 1 October 2012.
These arrests come in the context of an on-going crackdown on medical professionals. Dr Ahmed Al-Mushatat and Dr Hassan Matooq have been in detention since 2011 and are serving two and three year sentences respectively, on similar baseless charges.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern at the sentencing, arrest and detention of Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, Mr. Ibrahim Al-Demistani Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji, Dr. Mahmoud Asghar, Ms. Dheya Ibrahim Abu Idris, Dr Ahmed Al-Mushtat and Dr Hassan Matooq. The GCHR believes that the charges against them are unfounded and are directly related to the legitimate exercise of their profession and their right to freedom f expression.
The GCHR calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, Mr. Ibrahim Al-Demistani, Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji, Dr. Mahmoud Asghar, Ms. Dheya Ibrahim Abu Idris, Dr Ahmed A-Mushatat and Dr Hassan Matooq and all human rights defenders detained as a result of their human rights work;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of all Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, Mr. Ibrahim Al-Demistani Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji, Dr. Mahmoud Asghar, Ms. Dheya Ibrahim Abu Idris, Dr Ahmed Al-Mushatat and Dr Hassan Matooq while they remain in detention;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b ): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; and Article 12 (2): The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.