Human rights and medical practice are rooted in fundamental principles including respect, dignity, fairness and equality. The BMA has always advocated the highest standards of human rights in healthcare, both for clinicians and patients.
Most recently, we have spoken out against human rights abuses during civil unrest in Bahrain and Syria. The BMA has called on both governments to respect the impartiality of medical staff and allow all patients full access to healthcare whatever their political views.
South African doctor on trial in United Arab Emirates found not guilty
The BMA is pleased to report that an Abu Dhabi court has found retired South African paediatrician Cyril Karabus not guilty of manslaughter and forgery. We hope that he will soon be able to return home.
Professor Karabus was arrested in August 2012 at Dubai airport while in transit to South Africa following a family wedding in Canada. He had been convicted, in absentia, of the manslaughter of a child he treated for leukaemia in 2002 while working in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), and until his arrest knew nothing of the charges against him. The 78 year-old was released on bail in October after being detained in prison for two months but, having had his passport confiscated, he has remained in the UAE throughout his retrial.
The BMA wrote to the UAE government expressing our concerns that Prof Karabus' retrial would not meet international standards for a fair trial due to the inability of the prosecution to produce the original medical records of the deceased patient In a BMJ editorial and blog we have highlighted this case and the risks faced by doctors working in the UAE. We also encouraged individual BMA members to write to the UAE government about the case.
The BMA understands that the court decision, handed down on 21 March 2013, follows a medical review committee decision that Prof Karabus was not to blame for the child's death.
Read our letters to the UAE government November and December 2012 (PDF)
The BMA is profoundly disappointed about the Bahrain court ruling that has upheld the convictions of nine healthcare workers. Six of the workers have subsequently been returned to jail.
They were among 20 workers who faced criminal charges following the outbreak of civil unrest in Bahrain in February 2011 and were originally sentenced in September 2011. Nine were acquitted by the Bahrain High Criminal Court of Appeal on June 14. A further two healthcare workers did not appeal against their sentences; they are thought to have left Bahrain or gone into hiding.
Medical neutrality benefits the whole of society, including the most vulnerable. It is a marker of civilisation.
No evidence was presented against these doctors and the verdicts went against assurances given to the BMA by the Bahrain ambassador to the UK after a meeting in March. The BMA says it appears to be wholly contrary to natural justice for them to be found guilty and detained.
The BMA has repeatedly lobbied the Bahraini authorities over the case amid concerns that medical neutrality was being jeopardised. We have again written to the Bahraini authorities, including the Bahrain ambassador to the UK, to urge them to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of the six health professionals.
The BMA also wants an independent investigation into claims by the healthcare workers that they were tortured and ill-treated during their time in custody last year.
The case has been monitored closely by human rights group Amnesty International, which has been coordinating the letter-writing campaign in which the BMA has been participating.
Read the most recent letters from the BMA to Bahraini officials November 2012 (PDF)
Read previous letters from the BMA to Bahraini and British officials (PDF)
BMA action on breaches of medical neutrality in Bahrain, March 2011 – November 2012 (PDF)