February 27, 2012

Washington, DC – Today, the 20 Bahrain medics who were detained, tortured and sentenced to long terms in prison after an unfair military court trial again had their appeal hearing postponed, this time until April 30. Human Rights First notes that this latest delay indicates that the Bahraini government has no intent to give the medics a fair appeal any time soon and is further proof of the ongoing human rights abuses in the kingdom.

“It’s very clear they just want to drag this on to infinity,” Dr. Fatima Haji told Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley after today’s hearing. “They failed to bring their witnesses, failed to get whatever information they needed about duty [rotations] from last year…It was just a copy and paste from the last three or four court hearings.”

Haji was sentenced to five years in prison by the military court and is out of detention while the appeal continues. She is one of the medics arrested in March and April of last year. They were then tortured into making false confessions and sentenced to prison on Sept. 29, 2011.

Following today’s delay, another of the medics, Dr. Nada Dhaif, who was sentenced to 15 years, told Dooley that, “Today’s hearing was something very close to a very bad, boring play, with lousy performers … I don’t know why they insist on continuing with this.”

The 20 medics are among 502 people who were given unfair trials by the military courts. Another prominent figure sentenced by the military court is leading human rights activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who was sentenced to life in prison. He is on his third week of hunger strike in protest at the unfair convictions.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on authorities in Bahrain to take immediate steps to address the “deepening mistrust” between the government and civil society. She notes, “The Bahraini authorities need to urgently take confidence-building measures including unconditionally releasing those who were convicted in military tribunals.” Those convicted by the military court also include about 160 policemen who refused to join in the government’s violent crackdown against democracy protests last year.

“The U.S. Government should match the U.N.’s call that all those convicted in military tribunals be released unconditionally. The U.S. needs to get on the right side of the democracy debate in Bahrain and not be seen simply as a government that arms the dictatorship,” concluded Dooley.

For more information on Bahrain, read Dooley’s most recent report, Bahrain: The Gathering Storm.

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