WMA appeals to King of Bahrain over Trial of Health Professionals

(16.09.2011) The World Medical Association has appealed directly to the King of Bahrain to intervene in the case of the 20 health professionals facing trial in the country after they treated injured protesters during the recent political unrest.

In a letter to King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, the WMA urges him to carry out an immediate and independent investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment against some of the health professionals, as well as against other detainees in Bahrain, to make the results public, and to bring to justice any officials responsible for the torture or other ill-treatment of detainees.

The WMA adds that the confessions obtained under torture must not be submitted or used as evidence in the trial of the 20 health professionals or any other trials in Bahrain.

The health professionals, including a number of physicians, are due to appear before a military court on September 26 charged with participating in efforts to overthrow the Bahraini monarchy and taking part in illegal rallies.

The WMA says it believes that if the health workers are found guilty, they could be possible prisoners of conscience.

In its letter, which was also sent to Bahrain's Minister of Social Development and the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, the WMA says the trial, according to Amnesty International, does not appear to have met international standards for fair trial.

‘We are deeply concerned that, despite the serious charges brought against them, these health professionals appear to have been brought to trial solely because of their peaceful efforts to provide medical assistance to people injured by government security forces during popular protests in February and March, in which case those held in custody would be prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released.

‘All healthcare personnel must be protected and supported in their moral, ethical and professional responsibilities to provide care for the sick and injured. We call on you to be fair and just in this matter.'