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ANA criticizes Bahrain for imprisonment of nurses

Wednesday October 5, 2011
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The American Nurses Association released a statement condemning the Bahraini judicial system for imposing prison sentences on 20 healthcare professionals, including nurses, who treated wounded political protesters earlier this year.

Perhaps because of international pressure, including from the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, the Bahraini government changed course Wednesday and ordered a retrial for the medical personnel. The decision moves the trial from a special security court to a civilian court and allows the healthcare workers to remain free pending the outcome.

The original sentences for the healthcare workers, including Roula Jassim Mohammed al-Saffar, a leader of the Bahrain Nursing Society, ranged from five to 15 years in prison.

According to an Associated Press report, the nurses and physicians worked at the state-run Salmaniya Medical Center close to the capital's Pearl Square, which became the epicenter of the Bahrain uprising. The unrest was part of a series of protests and revolts throughout the Arab world during the spring.

Bahraini authorities viewed the hospital's staff — some of whom participated in pro-democracy street marches — as protest sympathizers. The hospital staff mostly were Shiite Muslims, a group that conflicted with the ruling Sunni Muslims during the protests. But the healthcare workers said they treated all who needed care, not only Shiites.

In its statement, attributed to association President Karen Daley, RN, PhD, MPH, FAAN, the ANA noted the Bahraini nurses and other healthcare workers simply had been fulfilling "their ethical duty."

"Nurses and other healthcare professionals worldwide must remain free from political persecution to carry out their professional and humane duty to provide care to all people, regardless of ideological concerns," the ANA wrote.

The statement also referenced the ANA's Code of Ethics for Nurses (http://bit.ly/oLeTIK): "A fundamental principle underlying all nursing practice is 'respect for the inherent worth, dignity and human rights of every individual,' and [that] 'the need for healthcare is universal, transcending all individual differences.'

"The nurses and physicians in Bahrain acted in accordance with their ethics and must not be punished in the name of political oppression."

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