Intended for healthcare professionals


Bahrain unrest

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 04 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2768
  1. Richard Sollom, deputy director,
  2. Vince Iacopino, senior medical adviser
  1. 1Physicians for Human Rights, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  1. rsollom{at}

Breaches principles of medical neutrality and international law

Wang Bo/Xinhau Press/CORBIS

Thousands of protesters in the small island Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf took to the streets calling for government reform in early 2011. The government’s response was brutal and systematic: shoot civilian protesters, detain and torture them, and erase all evidence. On the frontline, treating hundreds of these wounded civilians, doctors had firsthand knowledge of these abuses and suffered from them themselves. Physicians for Human Rights and Médecins Sans Frontières each reported on these attacks against medical personnel, which were the result of their efforts to provide neutral care to wounded pro-democracy demonstrators.

On 22 April a report by Physicians for Human Rights documented violations of well established principles of medical neutrality (box).1

Violations of principles of medical neutrality by the Bahraini authorities1

  • Abducted medical professionals and detained them with no means of communication

  • Attacked ambulances: removed ambulance medics, and forced them to give their uniforms to police who then posed as medics

  • Prevented ambulances from reaching people who needed medical care

  • Blockaded health facilities and obstructed delivery of care

  • Destroyed medical records

  • Militarised the country’s main tertiary care hospital, preventing …

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