Responding to Brian Dooley’s Article in Foreign Policy
June 20, 2012 § 2 Comments
Brian Dooley of Human Rights First recently blogged in Foreign Policy about what he called “Bahrain’s Sham Trials.” But Mr. Dooley’s account of his experience at the trial of the medical personnel in Bahrain is selective and misleading. In one short essay, he has taken it upon himself to define justice and then support his arguments with appeals to emotion. It is worth noting that he offers not one fact in this entire essay to support his view that all of the accused should have been acquitted.
Despite overwhelming and independent evidence to the contrary, Mr. Dooley continues to assert that these 20 medical professionals were arrested and prosecuted because they “treated protestors.” Some excerpts from the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which Human Rights First and other groups frequently cite when criticizing Bahrain might shed some light on the court’s judgment.
“[T]he involvement of some doctors and medical personnel in various political activities on and around the SMC (Salmaniya Medical Center) premises was clearly difficult to reconcile with the full exercise of their medical responsibilities and highly disruptive to the optimum operation of an important medical facility in time of crisis (para. 847).”
And the Commission provided some specifics, including:
- Protesters and supportive medical personnel controlled some areas of the hospital (para. 847).
- “Some Sunni patients seeking to gain access to [the hospital] were turned away (para. 847).”
- Some medics intentionally spread false information about the events at SMC, and at least one person impersonated a doctor when he spoke to media (para. 835).
- The “manner in which some of the doctors treated some injured expatriate persons rises to a level of human insensitivity and professional disregard for medical ethics (para. 838).
The court judged the defendants as individuals, clearly weighing the accusations and evidence against each person. Normally, human rights advocates rightly insist that people not be tried en masse, but in this case, Mr. Dooley prefers a mass trial as long as it achieves his preordained outcome, an acquittal. Bahrain has an independent judiciary. And like any other country with one, Bahrain’s judicial process must be respected.
Mr. Dooley’s investment in the story of these individuals–with whom he clearly sympathizes and whose accounts he believes wholeheartedly–has affected his objectivity. He insists on referring to the “pro-democracy” demonstrations even after many news organizations have dropped the term when faced with evidence that many participants and instigators of the demonstrations were not pro-democracy–anti-government, certainly; pro-democracy, no.
In the absence of facts, Mr. Dooley offers the laments of both the convicted and the acquitted. But the fact that these people are sad or angry has no bearing on guilt or innocence. People are always sad when they or their friends are convicted of crimes. As a propaganda tool, however, it seems to do nicely.
The Bahraini Government invited Dr. Bassiouni to carry out a fact-finding investigation in Bahrain, and we agreed to live with the facts it established. His Majesty King Hamad stood with Mr. Bassiouni and publicly accepted the report–all of it. But Mr. Dooley and many of his colleagues accepted the report selectively. I would highly recommend that everyone read the report for the complete truth about what happened.
Just as it is important for Bahrain to acknowledge past mistakes and continue with its reform process, which has been ongoing for the last 11 years, it is also important for human rights organizations to correct past statements in light of new evidence.