Bahraini government withdrew permission for conference at Royal College of Surgeons

Clear message sent not to hold conference at RCSI Bahraini campus, charity has said

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières had teamed up with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to organise the cancelled two-day conference in Bahrain to examine “medical ethics and dilemmas in situations of political discord or violence”.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières had teamed up with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to organise the cancelled two-day conference in Bahrain to examine “medical ethics and dilemmas in situations of political discord or violence”.

Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 06:00

Permission for a conference on medical ethics planned for Bahrain was verbally withdrawn by members of the Bahrain government, medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said last night.

The cancellation of the conference triggered the resignation of Prof Tom Collins, president of the Bahrain campus of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI ).

Dr Bart Janssens, director of operations at Médecins Sans Frontières, said though written permission was given for the conference in December, since then a “the clear message” from other members of the government was it should not go ahead.

The charity had teamed up with the RCSI to organise the two-day event to examine “medical ethics and dilemmas in situations of political discord or violence”.

Prof Collins told staff and students at the weekend he was stepping down in protest. He had been centrally involved in planning the conference, due to take place on April 10th. The theme of the conference was sensitive in Bahrain given the continuing fallout from the rounding up of scores of medics in early 2011 as Bahraini security forces tried to snuff out pro-democracy rallies. Three of those arrested had trained at the RCSI in Dublin.

The RCSI was criticised for its failure to take a public stand against the security crackdown which, as an international investigative commission later confirmed, involved serious human rights abuses by the Bahraini authorities.

Yesterday, Bahraini minister of state for information Sameera Rajab said the decision to cancel was unexpected and unwarranted. Speaking to Gulf Daily News , she said the charity had all permissions in writing since December.

“They also had visas to travel to Bahrain and even had two of their representatives come over a few days ago to look at the arrangements and no one said anything,” she said.

“Suddenly we hear the conference is off due to alleged lack of assurances.”

But Dr Janssens said it had been made clear to the charity that it was not possible for the conference to go ahead. “From other parts of the government, the clear opinion was we should not hold the conference. We hear now this is denied, but there was a clear message repeatedly that we shouldn’t go ahead.”