A Bahrain court issued 15-year sentences to eight medical workers who treated protesters during anti-government protests in Sitra. The doctors worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain’s largest public hospital, and were not the only ones sentenced. Other medical personnel working at the hospital were sentenced to between 5-15 years in jail for giving their assistance to protesters. The medical personnel argued that these sentences were unfair because they have a duty to treat anyone who comes into the hospital, and their assistance did not mean they agreed with what the protesters were doing.
Hans Hogrefe, chief policy officer of Physicians For Human Rights, stated that, “[t]hese are medical professionals who were treating patients during a period of civil unrest, as their ethical duty requires them to do…[and] [t]o imprison them as part of a political struggle is unconscionable.”
The Bahrain News Agency justified the actions of the court by explaining that the hospital had been used as “a base for anti-government activity.” They argued that at a time of civil unrest there is no such thing as being too cautious and they had reason to believe the hospital was acting as an ally to protesters. They believed some of the medical personnel were in possession of fuel bombs and light weapons, and therefore needed to be dealt with.
Although there may be some weight to the convictions, the United Nations human rights office has questioned the serious due process irregularities that took place during these convictions, with some trials concluding after just ten minutes. Others have stated that the court’s actions are sending a “very negative message to the international community that Bahrain is not moving in the right direction in terms of respecting human rights.”
Do you think the 15-year sentences were justified or too harsh? Do you think the medical personnel were simply fulfilling their duty to treat those who come to the hospital or were they part of the protest effort?
The predicament of these doctors is one that is familiar to those in the legal profession; however, lawyers here in the United States are protected from such unjust associations. Under the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.2(b) “[a] lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.” Essentially, the rule helps separate the lawyer’s beliefs from the client’s beliefs and protects the lawyer from any damage this association could result in.
Should the medical profession in Bahrain adopt a similar rule to protect themselves from these types of convictions? Should they have a different rule put in place?