News / Middle East

Acquitted Shi'ite Medics Face Uncertain Future in Bahrain

Ali al-Ekry, former senior surgeon at the Salmaniya hospital in Manama, speaks to the media after hearing the verdict in his trial, in which Bahrain's highest court upheld his jail term, in Manama, October 1, 2012.
Ali al-Ekry, former senior surgeon at the Salmaniya hospital in Manama, speaks to the media after hearing the verdict in his trial, in which Bahrain's highest court upheld his jail term, in Manama, October 1, 2012.
Phillip Walter Wellman
Nearly five months after being acquitted of crimes related to Bahrain’s anti-government uprising, some Shi’ite medics remain suspended from work and fear they may never practice medicine in the country again. Their fate lies in the hands of a committee that aims to determine whether they breached ethical codes at the height of the Gulf kingdom’s unrest last year.

Investigation

The medical workers, who assumed their names had been cleared for good, say they are confused by the ongoing investigation as authorities have yet to provide them with full details.

Several have been subpoenaed by the Civil Service Bureau for questioning later this week on the same charges of which they were acquitted, an action they say is illegal.

A spokesperson for Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority, Salman al-Jalahma, assures the process is legitimate.

"Though they have been acquitted in courtrooms, there were ethical breaches of them politicizing their profession and other ethical codes that they broke," he said. "This will be dealt with by the hospital administration and has nothing to do with the government.”

A Bahraini military court last September sentenced 20 health workers to prison terms of between five and 15 years for crimes such as attempting to overthrow the government.

Sentences

Of the nine acquitted in June, eight are employed by Bahrain's Ministry of Health and say, in addition to their suspensions, they also are forbidden to work at private clinics.  Nine of their colleagues were given reduced sentences; five are still in prison. Two of medics originally convicted are believed to have fled the country.

While the government maintains the medics politicized their profession while on duty, Bahrain has been heavily criticized for violating medical neutrality. Many believe the revised, reduced punishments were the result of mounting international condemnation.

Physicians for Human Rights

A senior researcher with Physicians for Human Rights, Abdulrazzaq al-Saiedi, says he believes the government is behind the ongoing interrogations and that convicting the medics of ethical crimes could be a way to punish them without garnering much outside attention.

"The government still wants to punish them," he said. "The government is angry with them. This Civil Service Bureau is not an independent body; it’s a government body. Here there is no independency and it’s not fair."

During Bahrain’s initial crackdown on Shi’ite protesters, it was the medics who described to the media the injuries they had seen.

Shi’ites, who make up the majority of Bahrain's indigenous population, took to the streets in February 2011 to demand political reform from their Sunni rulers.

The medical workers insist they did nothing but provide help for injured anti-government demonstrators.

But the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry affirmed staff at the country’s main hospital, “moved in and out of their roles as political activists and medical personnel.”

A YouTube video distributed by the government's information authority appears to back claims that medical personnel hosted unauthorized marches inside the hospital.

Torture

The medics were eventually arrested and say they were tortured into confessing to charges against them.  

Those later acquitted say the new interrogations could result in further suspensions or the complete withdrawing of their licenses.

Al-Saiedi, from Physicians for Human Rights, argues the medics should be receiving compensation, not more punishment.

"They need to get paid all the money that they lost, and they need to be reinstated, and also they need to be compensated for the torture," he said. "And they need to be treated well. But now we see they still think of themselves as a target. They are not safe. They don’t know what will happen tomorrow."

Dr. Fatima Haji, who received a five-year jail sentence before being acquitted, expects the worst.

“I feel like I’m not going to practice medicine in this country any more," she said. "This is my fear and this is what I feel like they are going to do.”

Last month, the five medics who remain in prison began a hunger strike, urging international rights groups to campaign for their release.

The Bahraini government has routinely accused the international media of biased coverage of the medics’ situation and insists the “legal and ethical breaches” committed would not be tolerated in any society.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid