College urged to help free medics in Bahrain

 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL Ireland has called on the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) to use its influence to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to release 47 doctors and nurses from custody.

Some of the imprisoned medics were trained in Ireland and the Dublin college, which has invested tens of millions of euro in a new medical university in Bahrain, has so far refused to issue any comment on the arrest of the medical staff in March.

Several of the doctors imprisoned in Bahrain trained and worked in Dublin hospitals for several years under fellowships, including Dr Basim Dahif and Dr Ali-Alekri.

Prof Damian McCormack, who works at Temple Street children’s hospital, Dublin, said he had worked with several of the doctors from Bahrain, who now could face possible execution.

“These guys are very well educated and are very good doctors. They were excellent ambassadors for Bahrain when they worked in Dublin,” said Prof McCormack, who called for the medics’ release in a letter to The Irish Times.

The authorities in Bahrain have said they would try 24 doctors and 23 nurses this week in a military court on charges of acting against the state. The medical personnel were arrested when government forces stormed the Salmaniyya Medical Centre, the largest hospital in Bahrain.

The kingdom’s minister for justice Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa has alleged that two protesters died because staff inflicted additional wounds on them or gave unneeded treatment during widespread public protests in March.

Human rights groups say the arrests are part of a campaign of intimidation against pro-democracy protesters who oppose the regime. They say the campaign of intimidation runs counter to the Geneva Convention which guarantees medical care to people wounded in such conflicts.

Several prominent medical organisations and the United Nations have criticised Bahrain for targeting medical personnel in its crackdown on popular protests and for proposing military trials.

John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons in England, issued a strident statement last month criticising Bahrain.

“These reports of harassment of medical staff in the ongoing unrest in Bahrain, including surgeons trained in the UK, are deeply disturbing,” he said.

The RCSI recently sent a fact-finding mission of senior staff to Bahrain to study the evolving situation. It has so far declined to make any public criticism of the authorities’ actions in the kingdom. “Unfortunately, we will not be in a position to respond to your query. RCSI does not comment publicly on a political situation, or individual cases,” the college said.