Bahraini doctors and nurses on Saturday urged the UN to investigate claims of abuse and due process violations in relation to their recent convictions for pro-democracy protests. Last week, the National Safety Court of Appeal, a court composed of military prosecutors and civilian and military judges, in Bahrain [JURIST news archive] sentenced [JURIST report] one anti-government protester to death for killing a police officer and gave lengthy prison sentences to medical personnel, including doctors, for providing treatment to injured protesters during the country's uprising. In a statement [text] released shortly after the convictions, the medics denounced the charges and criticized the Bahraini government:
During the times of unrest in Bahrain, we honored our medical oath to treat the wounded and save lives. And as a result, we are being rewarded with unjust and harsh sentences. ... The charges that we have being accused of are absolutely ludicrous. We are highly professional and experienced medics and specialists, and we categorically deny all charges against us. This is the first time in the history of medicine that the medical profession has been attacked on such a large scale by any government.Numerous human rights groups have also voiced concern over the convictions [AP report], while Bahraini officials maintain that the medics "actively supported opposition protestors."
Forty-seven doctors and nurses were arraigned [JURIST report] in June on charges of trying to overthrow the government and participating in illegal demonstrations when they helped treat injured protesters at the Salmaniya Medical Complex [official website], a state-run center in Bahrain's capital, Manama. Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy websites], in April, criticized [JURIST report] Bahrain for rampant human rights abuses related to anti-government protests. In March, six opposition leaders were arrested [JURIST report] in Bahrain after the government, backed by foreign troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) [official website], violently dispersed protesters in Manama. Days earlier, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] declared a three-month state of emergency [JURIST report] in response to growing unrest in the island nation. The state of emergency came just days after a group of 22 Bahraini lawmakers, part of an independent pro-government bloc, called on the King to impose martial law [JURIST report] under articles 36 and 123 of the Bahraini Constitution [text, PDF]. Also in March, the member states of the GCC, which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, deployed troops to Bahrain [BBC report] for the purpose of guarding oil installations and financial institutions. The Bahraini government's response to the ongoing protests have prompted international concern. In February, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called for an end to violence against protesters [JURIST report] in the country, referencing attempts to quell protests sweeping across the region.