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Bahrain health care professionals on trial

The RCN has expressed its concern about the arrest, detention, ill-treatment and unfair trial of 20 nurses, doctors and other health care professionals who were arrested after they treated patients injured during the protests in Bahrain in March and April 2011.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, wrote to the King of Bahrain, as well as the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, to object to the unacceptable prison sentences imposed on the health care professionals at a seven-minute military tribunal on 29 September 2011. Mrs Rula al-Saffar, the Head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, and 12 other colleagues were sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment; two were sentenced to 10 years and and five were sentenced to five years. Dr Carter called for the Bahraini authorities to drop the charges, as well as objecting to the trials of civilians taking place in a military setting, and raising concerns about allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Read the letter here (PDF 120 KB) [see how to access PDF files].

On 5 October the sentences were overturned and another trial ordered. The news, while welcome, was treated with cautious optimism, as it was not clear whether the new trials would be held in civilian or military courts, or whether the defence lawyers would be allowed to present their evidence in full. Appeals took place in a civilian court on 23 October 2011, and some of the charges were dropped, although some serious charges remain. The next court hearing is due to take place on 28 November, and according to Amnesty International the workers are still at risk of an unfair trial.

If you wish to take action to support these hospital workers, you can write to the King of Bahrain, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, copying in the Bahraini Ambassador to the UK, Her Excellency Alice Samaan, The Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, 30 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QB. For details of what to say, as well as addresses and fax numbers, please read Amnesty International's latest information and appeal for action (PDF 52.3 KB).

For further background, you can read the RCN news stories from June, September, and October 2011.