At the Annual Stated Meeting of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, held 18 October, Dr John Donohoe, outgoing President of RCPI, spoke about Bahrain in his State of the College Address.
He said, “Since the beginning of this year, unrest and political instability have spread across North Africa and the Middle East. I know that many Fellows and members of this college have had to cope with the medical consequences of violence and turmoil, and often at considerable risk to themselves. I would like to send a message of solidarity to you from the College in these very difficult times.
I am aware that many of our Fellows have been particularly shocked by the events unfolding in Bahrain, where a number of doctors and other health professionals were arrested following protests there earlier this year.
Any country that considers itself modern and progressive has an obligation to ensure that doctors are allowed to practice in a safe and neutral environment where all patients, irrespective of their backgrounds can safely receive the medical care they require. Hospitals must remain as inviolable sanctuaries for this noble purpose.
In our College statement in July we said that it was essential that the judicial process underway in relation to these medical professionals had to be demonstrably and unequivocally fair and just, and be seen to arrive at the truth of what really happened. Anything less than this will not only be a grave injustice, but will also do irreparable damage to Bahrain, its international reputation and the practice of medicine there.
We were therefore deeply disturbed by the subsequent conviction and grossly disproportionate sentencing of these health professionals in Bahrain. That they were tried in a military rather than a civilian court was totally unacceptable, irrespective of the charges against them. The only way that this matter could have been addressed in a just manner was through a civilian judicial process conforming to international standards of transparency and fairness.
The statement by the Bahraini authorities confirming their intention to set aside these military convictions and re-try the doctors in a civilian court goes some way to addressing these concerns. However the international community must be entirely satisfied that the proposed judicial process is carried out in strict accordance with international norms of justice. Furthermore it is hoped that the findings of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry will further inform and clarify this process.
It is essential that governments and global organisations such as the United Nations continue to exert maximum influence on Bahrain to ensure fair treatment for these health professionals. This College has pursued, and will continue to pursue these serious matters through the Irish government and its Department of Foreign Affairs.”
Aoife Ní Mhaitiú,
Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
Phone: 01 863 9770