In 2011 political unrest began in Bahrain following the wider Arab Spring movement. The Shiite majority faced discrimination as their rights were violated by the ruling Sunni minority.
This political unrest led to a violent crackdown by Bahrain’s security forces. Protesters and medics were directly targeted by the Bahraini government, and were shot at and arrested by police. Many were tortured during their interrogation and detention.
Protesters, and medics who treated them, were further subjected to torture and abuse in the training hospitals used by the RCSI-Bahrain. Bahraini hospitals were surrounded by police and security forces, with patients interrogated about their involvement in the protests while receiving emergency medical care. Many protesters were denied treatment in hospital, constituting a breach in medical neutrality. As a result, those wounded were afraid to seek treatment in hospitals.
Political prisoners were discriminated for medical treatment by the authorities. Before being treated, the doctors would first ask for the reasons for their detention and this would result in political prisoners receiving sub-standard care… Medical treatment was often denied or severely delayed.
Anonymous medic, exiled from Bahrain
Three such hospitals, King Hamad University Hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex and the Bahrain Defence Forces Hospital, provide clinical tuition to the students of RSCI-Bahrain, a constituent college of Ireland's largest medical school, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
In 2014, the Irish Medical Council granted unconditional approval to RCSI-Bahrain for a period of five years. Documents secured under the Freedom of Information Act requested by GLAN, Redress and BIRD, show how serious human rights concerns, including torture of patients and doctors, were wrongly set aside by the body during the 2014 accreditation process.
In November 2018 the UN Human Rights Committee highlighted on-going human rights issues in Bahrain:
“The Committee notes with concern reports indicating a recent increase in the use of violence by law enforcement officials during peaceful demonstrations, including reports of 6 fatal incidents during demonstrations and 10 other extrajudicial killings in 2017. The Committee also notes with concern reports that demonstrators injured during demonstrations were questioned in medical facilities about their participation in demonstrations and denied medical assistance.”
In advance of the Irish Medical Council's re-accreditation of RCSI-Bahrain in March 2020, GLAN, ADHRB and BIRD have written to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to health, on the situation of human rights defenders, and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, drawing attention to continuous breaches of medical neutrality and human rights violations in Bahrain.
The submission details the experiences of two medical professionals and a human rights defender who have suffered torture at the hands of government officials while detained and interrogated. The victims were further denied adequate medical treatment while in hospital.
Both medics were arrested for treating injured protestors, while the human rights defender has been involved in documenting the abuse, torture and deaths of activists in Bahrain.