Medical Staff Cases, Bahrain
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MEDICAL STAFF CASES IN BAHRAIN - 2011 to 2012
FAIR TRIAL CONCERNS
According to Philip Luther, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme, "These are simply ludicrous charges against civilian professionals who were working to save lives amid very trying circumstances. It appears that the real reason for targeting these health workers was the fact that they denounced the government crackdown on protesters in interviews to international media."
The U.S. State Department says the Bahraini government should provide fair trials, access to attorneys and judicial transparency. Deputy spokesperson, Mark Toner, said the United States was "concerned about trials of civilians, including medical personnel, in military courts and the fairness of those proceedings."
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nation's secretary-general, strongly criticised the "harsh" prison sentences meted out to 20 medical workers in Bahrain. He "expresses his deep concern over the harsh sentences handed down in Bahrain to civilians, medical professionals, teachers and others, by the Court of National Safety," said UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky."These proceedings were conducted under conditions that raised serious questions of due process irregularities."
UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, described the sentencing of 20 Bahraini medics as "disproportionate" and called for their cases to be transferred to the civilian courts. He said these were "worrying developments that could undermine the Bahraini government's moves towards dialogue and the reform needed for long-term stability in Bahrain".
Sheik Abdulaziz Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa from Bahrain's Ministry of Information says "no-one is above the law" and that "the law applies to everyone in the country". This surely means that all the medics charged are entitled to due process and fair trials under the law.
Send letters/emails of concern to:
Dr. Fatima Al Beloushi, Acting Minister of Health Building 1228, Road 4025, Juffair 340, P.O. Box 12, Kingdom of Bahrain. Minister@health.gov.bh
His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice & Islamic Affairs, Kingdom of Bahrain, Diplomatic Area, Manama, P.O.Box 450, Kingdom of Bahrain.
9th April, 2008 a policeman is killed in a Shia village by youths throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Police arrest 14 people. All major political societies, including the largest Shia party, Al-Wifaq, issue strong statements condemning the killing and supporting the security forces.
Mid-February, 2011 - Inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and frustrated with persistent discrimination, Shi'a underclass youth regularly clash with police. Seven protesters are killed during the unrest. Al Wefaq resigns from its 18 seats in the Bahraini parliament in protest at the crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.
Mid-March, 2011 – New clashes break out in three areas of Manama. A three-month state of emergency is declared. A violent crackdown on protesters ensues (at least six are killed) and six opposition leaders are arrested. National Safety Courts - courts composed of military prosecutors and civilian and military judges - are instituted. 24 doctors and 23 nurses are arrested and detained variously for:
- (i) possession of unlicensed weapons,
- (ii) inciting the overthrow of the government with hardline protesters,
- (iii) provoking sectarian hatred,
- (iv) forceful occupation of a public building for three weeks,
- (v) the stockpiling of weapons,
- (vi) abusing the Salmaniya Medical Complex for political purposes.
- (vii) refusal to extend assistance to a person in need
- (viii) embezzlement of public funds,
- (ix) assault,
- (x) assault that resulted in death,
- (xi) refusal to perform duties and putting people's lives and health at risk,
- (xii) illegal detention, and
- (xiii) abuse of authority to suspend and stall laws and regulations.
The accused deny the charges.
The medics claim that during the unrest in Bahrain they honoured their medical oath to treat the wounded and save lives. They, however, admit to being outspoken witnesses to the bloodshed and the brutal treatment by the security forces, which were aided by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (some speak of Bahrain having become a Saudi palatinate). They claim that wounded protesters were afraid to seek treatment at the Salamniya Medical Complex and that ambulances were prevented from retrieving the injured.
The detainees claim they were subject to maltreatment, humiliation and violence, and that most experienced severe forms of psychological and physical abuse during interrogation. They state they were coerced into making false confessions, some of which were filmed by the authorities and believe that the aim was to punish, intimidate and degrade them during their detention.
8th April, 2011 - Christopher Stokes, Director General of Doctors Without Borders, says, "The action by the military to declare the hospital a legitimate military target, and the use of the health system as a tool by the security apparatus, completely ignores and undermines the fact that all patients have a right to treatment in a safe environment, and that all medical staff have a fundamental duty to administer treatment without discrimination."
28th April, 2011 - Behind closed doors, the Lower National Safety Court sentences four defendants to death:
- Ali Abdullah Hassan al-Sankis,
- Qassim Hassan Matar,
- Saeed Abduljalil Saeed,
- Adbulaziz Abdulridha Ibrahim Hussain,
and three to life imprisonment:
- Issa Abdullah Kadhim Ali,
- Sadeq Ali Mahdi,
- Hussein Jaafar Abdulkarim,
for the premeditated murder of two policemen killed by being run over by a vehicle on 16th March. The seven accused are believed to have been held incommunicado following their arrests and the trial is seen as unfair.
Early May, 2011 - The Bahraini authorities confirm that 405 activists (including at least 47 medical professionals, of whom more than two dozen are doctors) have been referred to the courts, while 312 have been released.
19th May, 2011 - The Lower National Safety Court sentences nine defendants accused of kidnapping a policeman to 20 years in prison:
- Hamed Ibraim Al Madhoon,
- Khalil Ibrahim Al Madhoon,
- Jassim Ali Yahya,
- Bassim Jalil Saeed,
- Jalal Saeed Mohammed,
- Fouad Ali Fadhl,
- Falah Ali Fadhl,
- Mohammed Mirza Ali,
- Mohammed Habeeb Al Saffaf.
Early June, 2011 - Emergency law is lifted in Bahrain. The trials of 48 detained medics commence before a military judge. The male doctors attend court blindfolded, handcuffed and still in their bed clothes. As they wait, military officers beat them, slap them around the head and kick them. They are told to, “Face the walls you skinheads”, before being taken outside to stand in the sun for an hour until the judge arrives. The 48 medical professionals are then divided into two groups – those charged with misdemeanors such as inciting hatred of regime, inciting the forceful overthrow of regime, and participating in unauthorized rallies, and those charged with felonies such as assault and kidnapping. At the hearing the defendants’ lawyers complain that they had previously requested to meet with their clients and attend the interrogations, but that these requests were largely ignored. However, the presiding military judge does say that the lawyers will be able to meet with their clients after the session for a brief period of time. The lawyers also complained that they had not received the case files of their clients prior to the 6th June session. The hearing is adjourned until the 13th June.
7th June, 2011 - The Government of Bahrain agrees in principle to a UN mission visiting the country to investigate reported human rights violations which took place during the protests. No date for the visit is set.
12th June, 2011 - New charges are laid against two moderate, leading opposition politicians - Jawad Fairooz and Mattar Ebrahim Mattar - who have been in custody since 2nd May, after resigning their seats in parliament in protest at the government crackdown. They are now charged with inciting hatred against the regime and speaking to the news media.
13th June, 2011 - Thirty-four of the 47 medical staff who were charged with anti-state activities in May attend the military court. US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Michael Posner and US Chargé d'Affaires in Bahrain, Stephanie Williams, are present in the court. Once again the accused appear in their bed clothes, despite the judge's protestations. The accused are told to enter a plea. Those who plead 'not guilty' and protest that their confessions were obtained under torture are shouted at by the judge, who tells them not to speak, or be punished, and then to leave. The trial is adjourned for a second time, this time to 20th June, ostensibly after the judge accepts a request that the detainees should be medically examined to establish whether they were tortured.
29th June, 2011 - King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa announces that an independent commission will investigate human rights violations related to the country's pro-democracy protests. The commission is to be composed of international human rights law experts recommended by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other international human rights organisations.
18th July, 2011 - Human Rights Watch produces a report entitled "Bahrain - Targets of Retribution - Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities." The report documents serious government abuses, starting in mid-February 2011, including attacks on health care providers; denial of medical access to protesters injured by security forces; the siege of hospitals and health centers; and the detention, ill-treatment, torture, and prosecution of medics and patients with protest-related injuries.
Mid-August, 2011 - Al Wefaq boycott parliamentary elections planned for 24th September, to fill the seats from which the party resigned in February.
Late-August, 2011 - As “reconciliatory gestures” King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declares he would pardon some protesters and calls for the some 1,500-2,600 people, who lost their jobs for taking part in February’s pro-democracy demonstrations, to be reinstated. However, after Ramadan, protests resume and a teenager dies after being hit by a rubber bullet or a teargas canister (the first death of a protester since early July). It is estimated that 30 demonstrators were killed and 1,000 people detained during the protests which commenced in the spring.
7th September, 2011 – All medics are set free on bail after the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry (BCI), a commission set up by the king, reports that 17 detainees were admitted to hospital for refusing to eat.
28th September, 2011 – The Bahrain National Safety Court convicts 21 activists for their role in the protests, including eight prominent political figures, who are given life sentences for subversion. Ali Yusuf Abdulwahab Al Taweel is sentenced to death for deliberately murdering a police officer, and Mehdi Ali Attia is sentenced to life in prison for his role in the crime.
29th September, 2011 – 20 medics are sentenced in the Bahrain National Safety Court. It is reported that
- (i) the defendants and their lawyers were given inadequate time to prepare for the trial,
- (ii) evidence of torture and maltreatment in custody were deemed inadmissable,
- (iii) allegations of torture were not investigated by the authorities,
- (iv) the accused were not in attendance,
- (v) the proceedings were held behind closed doors,
- (vi) the testimony of the 26 defence witnesses was treated as immaterial,
- (vii) some trials lasted just 10 minutes, and
- (viii) the judgements were not made public.
According to Col. Yussef Rashid Flaifel, the military prosecutor, thirteen were sentenced to 15 years in prison, two to 10 years and five to five years (see details below).
October, 2011 – the verdicts are to be appealed against in a Bahraini civilian appellate court - the Court of Cassation.
5th October, 2011 – Dr. Ali Fadl Al-Boainain, Bahrain's Attorney General, orders a civilian court retrial for the 20 medical personnel sentenced to imprisonment. He said that after studying the cases the department of public prosecutions had "determined that the cases should be retried before the ordinary courts". He went on to state that the retrial "will be conducted before the highest civil court in Bahrain ... the Department of Public Prosecutions seeks to establish the truth and to enforce the law, while protecting the rights of the accused. No doctors or other medical personnel may be punished by reason of the fulfilment of their humanitarian duties or their political views." He went on to say that he "will continue to assess judgements of the National Safety Court in the interest of ensuring compliance with the rule of law", and where he deems it appropriate he will move for retrials before the ordinary judiciary. It remains unclear whether this means there will be a full retrial. The medics, in response, point out that their confessions were "extracted under torture and coercion", which leads them to "demand that all charges be dropped and nullified*.
22nd January, 2012 – The Public Prosecutor applies for the medics' court hearings to be brought forward from 19th March to 30th January. This is approved by the judge. It is speculated that the reason for this is to thwart international monitoring of the trials, as the observers are expected to arrive in March.
19th March, 2012 – "The convicted Bahraini medics issue a statement". It refers to a lengthy court hearing which ended late at night on 15th March. The statement points out that both the "Military and Public Prosecution were biased" and exerted undue influence on the judiciary. This is manifested by the Attorney General's statement on 10th March, 2012, giving the decision of the court before hearing the defence and, thus, well before the completion of the trial. It informs that just five of the medical team will be convicted, while the other 15 will be dealt with by Disciplinary Administrative Boards, and is, thus, in serious violation of fair trial criteria.
1st October, 2012 – Bahrain’s highest court upholds the convictions of 9 doctors & nurses by sentencing them to jail from between one month and 5 years. The medics were acquitted of the more serious criminal charges such as ‘occupying’ a hospital, possessing weapons, and embezzlement of hospital equipment. The court of cassation, instead of ordering an investigation into the torture of these medics, which was also proved by forensic medical reports given to the court, upheld the previous ruling in a politically motivated trial. Convictions and sentences carried by this ruling were related to charges of illegal gathering, promoting the change of the political regime by force, instigating sectarian hatred, illegal detention of persons and destruction of public property. All these charges appear to have no basis and were negated by the prosecution witnesses in court as well as the defendants' witnesses.
The head of public prosecutions issued a statement in the course of investigations into the torture and ill-treatment of the medical staff, stating that the investigation of seventeen public security personnel had been concluded, including officers who were charged with the use of force and threats to obtain confessions to crimes. Public prosecutors sent two police officers to trial by the criminal high court. The first court hearing for those accused of torture was adjourned because the accused failed to attend.
2nd October, 2012 – A 22-year-old detainee dies due to poor medical care and the convicted medics are arrested and taken back to jail. All are arrested at night and early in the morning in horrific scenes that bring back painful memories to their families.
15th January 2013 - the Court of Appeal upholds the 15-month prison sentence against former MP Mr Jawad Fairooz for charges of “participating in illegal protest at the pearl roundabout” and “calling for assemblies without notifying the authorities”. He is acquitted of the charges of “inciting against the regime” and “broadcasting false news”. The court orders a fine to suspend the prison sentence against Fairooz, who is currently out of the country, and who risks arrest or deportation if he returns to the country as he is one of the 31 citizens stripped of their citizenship last November. Fairooz was previously detained from 2nd May 2011 to 7th August 2011. He was reportedly tortured in detention, and his wife was arrested and beaten last year in an attempt to pressure him further. He stood for trial at the military court, but his case was later transferred to the civil court, which passed its first verdict on 7th November 2012. The verdict was made on the same day the Bahraini Interior Ministry revoked Fairooz's citizenship without any prior notice or judicial process, contrary to customary international law.
17th January, 2013 - the European Parliament passes a strongly worded resolution on Bahrain that calls for targeted EU sanctions against human rights violators, the restricting of trade and the export of crowd-control arms such as tear gas. It supports the imposing of visa restrictions and asset freezes of those responsible for human rights violations, as documented by the BICI, in what is the first case of an international body making such calls with regards to Bahrain. The motion puts forward 20 conclusions/demands in total that include the release of political prisoners, reversing of the revoked of citizenships, permitting freedom of expression and assembly and more. The motion is put forward by a number of MEP’s from different member states, including those who recently visited Bahrain. The effort is led by Dutch Member of the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake, who was denied entry into Bahrain in December. The European Union is now facing increasing pressure from its democratic institutions to push for reform in Bahrain. The Parliament has consistently called for the respect for human rights in Bahrain, but this latest move is the strongest example to date of clear condemnation and a call to action.
20th January, 2013 - the Criminal Court commences the first hearing in the case of tortured medical staff. The court hears testimony from Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, his brother Dr. Bassem Dhaif, and Ali Abdullah Mansour as victims and witnesses to torture. Police officer Mubarak bin Howayyel attends the court as first defendant, and the second defendant is Noura Al Khalifa, who attends an hour after the hearing starts. Unfortunately, the doctors were blindfolded during torture, and could only identifying their torturer by his/her voice.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Wael Bu Allay, has considered the claims of the tortured doctors, Ghassan and Bassem, but ignored the complaints of Dr. Ali Al-Akri and the nurse Ibrahim Dimistani who were subjected to very severe torture.
Currently, three doctors still languish in prisons, they are Dr. Ali Al-Akri, Dr. Saeed Asamahigi and Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, and, according to Dr. Ghassan, they are still suffering ill-treatment.
23rd January, 2013 - the Appeal Court in Bahrain upholds the death sentence meted out to a Bahraini youth, Ali al-Tawil, and the life sentence to Ali al-Shamlool. The harsh sentences relate to the popular pro-democracy movement that erupted in February, 2011.
6th February, 2013 - 20 incidents of Bahraini deaths among 28 cases have been documented in a Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, but they have not been referred to the courts. According to lawyers and the victims’ families in a survey conducted by Al-Wasat, 20 of the mentioned death cases haven’t been referred to the court yet. The families have indicated that no lawsuits have been filed in the courts regarding their relatives' cases. The families and lawyers of "Hassan Maki, Jaber Al-Alaiwat, Jawad Al-Shamlan, Aziz Ayad, Abdulradha Buhamid, Bahyia Al-Aradi, Jafar Maiof, Mahmood Abutaki, Ali Khudir, Ahmed Farhan, Jafar Mohammed Salman, Issa Radhi, Ahmed Abdulah Hassan, Majid Abdulaal, Sayed Ahmed Shams, Isa Mohammed Ali, Khadija Mirza, Sayed Hamid Mahfod, Jaffar Hassan Yousif, Abdulrasool Al-hajiri" said no cases have been filed in courts in relation to their deaths. Based on information gathered by Al-Wasat from a number of families and lawyers, "some of the victims' relatives have refused to receive any financial compensation offered by the Compensation Fund of the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs & Endowment." It was noted that the Ministry has purposely deposited money as compensation in their children's bank accounts without getting their approval, while others have confirmed receiving compensation without forgoing their right to their quest for accountability for those who killed their sons.
17th March, 2013 - Zainab Al-Khawaja begins a hunger strike after she is denied visitation rights. Members of her family, including her three year-old daughter, attempt to visit her at the detention center where she is being held, but are denied access. The prison authorities only state that they are following the orders of Lieutenant Shamma. Zainab has been arrested on several occasions for her peaceful protests, and, on this occasion, has been in prison since 28th February 2013.
Zainab was also scheduled to meet with her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, but this visit is denied. To protest the cancellation of this visit, Abdulhadi announces the start of a dry hunger strike, which consists of no foods of fluids. The health consequences for such a strike are much more severe. Abdulhadi is a member of the 'Bahraini 13'; he was imprisoned in 2011 and is serving a life sentence for charges relating to freedom of expression. He staged several hunger strikes, the last being on the 2nd February, to protest the restrictions that the prison authorities have placed on their communications with the outside world. Since their arrest, the authorities have not required that the Bahraini 13 prisoners wear a prison uniform, as is normally required of prisoners with criminal charges; but just before Abdulhadi was scheduled to meet with his daughter, the guards demanded that he wear a prison uniform. Enforcing the uniform rule appears to be a new tool used to humiliate prisoners of conscience and identify them as criminal prisoners. As punishment for refusing to wear the uniform, the Bahraini 13 and Zainab Al-Khawaja are being denied family and hospital visits.
18th March 2013 - Zainab Al-Khawaja's mother receives a phone call from the prison notifying her that Zainab's health has deteriorated, and that she has refused to be taken to the hospital until she is allowed to see her daughter.
20th March 2013 - Zainab Al-Khawaja is taken to the hospital and receives glucose in order to bring her blood-sugar levels back to normal. Her hunger strike continues. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja begins to drink water, but his hunger strike continues.
21st March 2013 - Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's health continues to deteriorate. Prison officials refuse to take him to hospital for treatment because he will not wear the prison uniform. Because Al-Khawaja is a prisoner of conscience, he has, thus far, not been required to wear the prison uniform, as is standard for criminal prisoners.
24th September, 2013 - The authorities continue to crack down on freedom of expression in Bahrain - this last week they arrested Khalil Al-Marzooq, who is the political assistant to the Secretary General of Al Wefaq, which is the largest opposition group in Bahrain. He will be held in detention for 30 days and investigated on allegations on incitement to commit terrorist crimes. In regards to the judicial system in Bahrain, the BCHR released a report on the Fourth Criminal Court, which has tried many of the cases involving political and human rights activists. The report concludes that in 95% of the examined cases, the defendants were denied access to a lawyer for all or part of their trial. In addition, the court refused to investigate serious allegations of torture. | Read more:
MEDICS SENTENCED ON 29TH SEPTEMBER, 2011
1. [Ali Al-Ekri], male, paediatric orthopaedic surgeon, aged 44, sentenced to 15 years in prison
2. Ali Hassan Al-Sadadi, kitchen worker at Salmaniya Medical Complex, sentenced to 15 years in prison
3. Dr. Nader Diwani, male, paediatrician, aged 53, sentenced to 15 years in prison
4. Dr. Ahmed Abdulaziz Omran Hassan, male, family GP, aged 47, sentenced to 15 years in prison
5. Dr. Mahmoud Asghar, male, paediatric surgeon, aged 40, sentenced to 15 years in prison
6. Ibrahim Al Demistani, male, senior nurse, aged 43, sentenced to 15 years in prison
7. Rula Al-Saffar, female, head of nursing at Salmaniya Medical Complex, aged 48, sentenced to 15 years in prison
8. Dr. Abdulkhaleq Al-Oraibi, male, rheumatologist, aged 39, sentenced to 15 years in prison
9. [Ghassan Dhaif], male, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, aged 45, sentenced to 15 years in prison
10. [Basim Dhaif], male, orthopaedic surgeon, aged 47, sentenced to 15 years in prison
11. Sayed Marhoon Al-Wedaie, male, Director of Paramedics and Ambulances, aged 36, sentenced to 15 years in prison
12. Dr. Nada Dhaif, female, dentist, aged 39, sentenced to 15 years in prison
13. Dr. Hassan Mohammed Nasser Al-Toblani, male, head of ICU, sentenced to 10 years in prison
14. Dr. Fatima Haji, female, rheumatologist, aged 33, sentenced to 5 years in prison
15. Deya Ebrahim Jaffer, female, nurse, sentenced to 5 years in prison
16. Dr. Najah Khalil, male, consultant family GP, Deputy Chief of Medical Services for Primary Health Care, sentenced to 5 years in prison
17. Mohammed Faeq Ali Al-Shehab, male, lab technician, sentenced to 5 years in prison
18. Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji, male, ophthalmologist, aged 56, sentenced to 10 years in prison
19. Dr. Qassim Mohammed Omran, male, intensivest, sentenced to 15 years in prison
20. [Zahra Al-Sammak], female, anaesthesia consultant, aged 45, sentenced to 5 years in prison
MEDICS STILL ON TRIAL as at 4th October, 2011
Ali Said Abdullah, assistant paramedic
Dr. Sadiq Abdulla, transplant surgeon
Ameen Jaffer Abdullah Ahmed, paramedic
Hamza Hassan Esa Ali, auxiliary
Dr. Jalila Al-Aali, endocrinologist
Dr. Dunia Al-Hashimi
Hassan Ali Al-Saffi, Assistant Paramedic
Hani Al-Aswad, ambulance driver, Salmaniya Medical Complex
Dr. Abdullah Mohammed Hassan Al-Durazi
Abdulhussain Ali Ebrahim
Dr. Kulood Yaqob Al-Sayyad, senior pediatric resident
Dr. Nehad Al-Shirawi, ICU consultant (specialist)
Dr. Kulood Al-Durazi, consultant, obstetrician and gynaecologist
Dr. Abdulshaheed Fadhel, plastic surgeon
Mohammed Ali Fateel, Assistant Paramedic
Ali Ahmed Esa Ghanim
Dr. Nabeel Hameed, neurosurgeon
Sayed Adnan Ateya Mohammed, paramedic
Abdulkareem Abdullah Saleh Hassan
Ebrahim Hassan Ali Hassan
Dr. Jaffer Salman Ahmed Hassan
Dr. Sadiq Jaffar, paediatric resident, Salmaniya Medical Complex
Jameela Abdulhussain Jassim, nurse
Dr. Arif Rajab, dental surgeon
Addul Ameer Abdullah Salman, assistant paramedic
Dr. Nayera Sarhan, consultant, family physician
Dr. Nabeel Tammam, ENT surgeon