Bahrain must quash convictions of protest medics

The convictions of nine health professionals sentenced to prison terms for their role in last year’s pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain must be quashed by the authorities, Amnesty International said as it called on the Kingdom not to return them to jail.On Monday Bahrain’s Court of Cassation in Manama rejected appeals by the doctors and nurses against their convictions and upheld their sentences, which ranged from one month to five years in prison, reduced in June by an appeal court from five to 15 years’ imprisonment.“With today’s verdict, the Bahraini government has shown once more it is not serious about human rights and accountability for past violations,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director.“The convictions against these doctors and nurses must be quashed immediately and all charges against them relating to their role in last year’s pro-reform demonstrations must be dropped.”Sentences were upheld against Ali ‘Esa Mansoor al’Ekri (five years), Ebrahim Abdullah Ebrahim al-Dumistani (three years), Ghassan Ahmed ‘Ali Dhaif (one year), Sa’eed Mothaher Habib al Samahiji (one year), Mahmood Ashghar ‘Abdulwahab (six months), Dhia Ibrahim Ja’far (two months), Bassim Ahmed ‘Ali Dhaif (one month), Nader Mohammed Hassan Dewani (one month) and Abdulkhaleq ‘Ali Hussain al-‘Oraibi (one month).The nine are currently not in detention, but six of them who have not completed their sentences face being sent back to prison at ay time.The six, who have been sentenced to between two months and five years, would be prisoners of conscience if they are jailed, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.Although the nine were charged with a variety of serious offences, according to Amnesty International’s research findings, none of them used or advocated violence. The organization believes the real reason why the doctors and nurses were arrested and tried is because they publicly denounced the excessive force used against protesters during pro-reform demonstrations last year in interviews with international media.No evidence has been presented in court to prove that the nine committed any internationally recognizable crime and the organization believes the accusations against them are unfounded.Today’s decision by the Court of Cassation comes only days after a defence lawyers’ request for the release of their client – prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab- was rejected and after another human rights activist, Zainab al-Khawaja, was sentenced to two months in prison for tearing up a picture of the King of Bahrain. They are both prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.On 19 September Bahrain’s government accepted more than 140 out of the 176 recommendations stemming from the Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council in Geneva.The recommendations included measures aimed at releasing prisoners of conscience, bolstering fair trial guarantees and investigating human rights violations committed during and after last year’s massive pro-reform protests.“The fact that all these convictions have been upheld while prisoners of conscience  remain behind bars highlights the lack of real commitment from the Bahraini government to fully meet the promises made less than two weeks ago before the Human Rights Council in Geneva,” said Harrison.Meanwhile, a trial began on Monday of two police officers accused of mistreating some of the doctors and nurses while they were detained in 2011, although the pair were not present in court.The medics and their lawyers did not receive any official notification about that trial, learning of it through other sources.The defendants are believed to be on trial for mistreating the medics, but it is unclear whether they have been charged with subjecting them to torture.The government had previously announced that formal charges had been brought against  another five police officers in relation to the case, however it is unclear when their trial will start.An investigation into the allegations of torture is believed to have been carried out, but no findings are known to have been made public.