In the spotlight
Bahraini Pediatrician Ali Esa Mansoor Al-‘Ekri Released from Prison
Dr. Ali Esa Mansoor al-‘Ekri, a Bahraini pediatric orthopedic surgeon, was released from Jaw Prison on March 10, 2017, after completing his five-year sentence.
In early 2011, amid growing anti-government protests, the Bahraini government sent security forces to the center of the capital city of Manama and violently cleared the area using tear gas canisters, bird-shot pellets, and brutal beatings. Dr. al-‘Ekri was among many health professionals who spent much of the ensuing weeks at al-Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), Manama’s main public hospital, providing medical treatment to hundreds of wounded protestors. After witnessing the severity and nature of the injuries sustained by the protestors, and the intervention of security forces to prevent patients from getting medical care, Dr. al-‘Ekri and a number of other health professionals spoke out about what they had witnessed. In interviews with foreign journalists they criticized the government’s violent actions and failure to help the injured obtain medical care. After the Ministry of Health refused to allow doctors to send ambulances to treat the injured at further demonstrations, Dr. al-‘Ekri called for the resignation of Bahrain’s Minister of Health. A few days later, on March 17, while performing surgery in an operating room at the SMC, he was accosted by masked security forces without an arrest warrant, blindfolded, handcuffed and taken away. He was one of several dozen health professionals who were arrested that month.
In June 2011, before a military court in proceedings that failed to meet international fair trial standards, Dr. al-‘Ekri was convicted of charges that included incitement of hatred against the regime, spreading false news, inciting others not to comply with the applicable laws, and attempting to occupy by force a public building (the SMC). He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Following widespread international protest, Dr. al-‘Ekri and dozens of the other health professionals convicted with him were granted an appeals process before a civilian court and were released pending the outcome of their appeal. While several of the charges for which he had been convicted were dropped, the appeal process remained seriously flawed, including the use of coerced confessions to support his conviction. On appeal, Dr. al-‘Ekri’s prison sentence was reduced from 15 to 5 years, and he was returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Egyptian medical doctor and computer engineer granted presidential pardons
On November 17, 2016, Egyptian vascular surgeon Dr. Ahmed Said and computer engineer Mostafa Ibrahim Mohamed Ahmed were granted presidential pardons, along with 80 other prisoners, after nearly one year in prison on charges related to their peaceful exercise of the rights to assembly and expression. They were released from al-Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison, where they had been held under harsh conditions of confinement, 24 hours after the pardon was announced.
Dr. Said and Mr. Ahmed were arrested in Cairo on November 19, 2015 after taking part in a peaceful commemoration of those who died during the “Mohamed Mahmoud” clashes four years earlier. During the November 2011 clashes, Dr. Said had provided medical care to injured protestors in a field hospital set up nearby. On the anniversary of the clashes, Dr. Said—who works as a surgeon in Germany and was in Cairo on a visit—and his friend, Mr. Ahmed, were part of a group of approximately 30 people who participated in a peaceful, stand-in protest on the 6th October Bridge in Cairo. In December 2015, both men were convicted by the Abdeen Misdemeanor Court on charges related to protesting and assembling without a permit and sentenced to two years in prison.
The CHR would like to thank all of the members of the National Academies who appealed for the release of Dr. Said and Mr. Ahmed.
The International H.R. Network holds its twelfth biennial meeting in Panama City, Panama
|Participants of the 2016 H.R. Network meeting in Panama City, Panama. |
The twelfth biennial meeting of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (H.R. Network), for which CHR serves as Secretariat, was held under the auspices of the National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation of Panama (SENACYT) and the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science (APANAC) from October 5-8, 2016 in Panama City, Panama. The H.R. Network, created in 1993, works to address global concerns related to science and human rights and to promote the free exchange of ideas and opinions among scientists and scholars in all countries. Representatives of 25 national scientific academies and scholarly societies from around the world were in attendance. The meeting included a one day symposium, Science and Human Rights: Navigating the Currents, with speakers from several Network member academies and academic institutions in Latin America and the Middle East. During the meeting, higher education students in science, engineering, health, law, journalism and other fields engaged with speakers at a special student session on the intersection between science and human rights. To view the programs for the symposium and student session, as well as photos of meeting participants, please click here.
Turkish Surgeon Mehmet Haberal Elected President of the Transplantation Society
|Mehmet Haberal (right) with his academic colleague Kemal Guruz (left) and former NAS President Bruce Alberts (center) |
The CHR is delighted to learn that Turkish transplantation surgeon Mehmet Haberal has been elected head of the international Transplantation Society. He will serve as president-elect from 2016 to 2018 and will be president of the Society from 2018 to 2020. Dr. Haberal, whose case was undertaken by the CHR following his unjust arrest in 2009, is an internationally respected transplantation surgeon. He was the first person in the world to perform both an adult segmental liver transplantation and a living kidney/liver transplantation from a living-related donor. Dr. Haberal also played an instrumental role in the establishment of a number of important medical institutions in Turkey, including the Turkish Organ Transplantation and Burn Foundation, which facilitated organ-sharing and procurement throughout the Middle East, a network of 14 hemodialysis centers throughout Turkey, and a hospital for the care of burns and transplantation. Subsequently, he oversaw the construction of six full-service hospitals throughout Turkey. In addition to his medical work, Dr. Haberal founded Başkent University near Ankara in 1993, the first private university to teach the health sciences in Turkey, and is the university’s rector.
A member of the National Academy of Medicine brought Dr. Haberal’s case to the attention of the CHR following his arrest in April 2009. He was one of 275 defendants brought to trial in mass proceedings that lasted four years, in what became known as the “Ergenekon Case.” Prosecutors alleged that the defendants had been involved in attempting to provoke the overthrow of the Turkish government by military coup. In February 2013, the CHR and the Human Rights Committee of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina undertook a fact-finding mission to Turkey on behalf of eight scientific colleagues facing serious charges as part of four mass trials. During the mission, the delegates visited Dr. Haberal in Silivri high security prison to express their support for him and to learn more about his case. Following the mission, the delegates published a report in which they called for Dr. Haberal’s immediate and unconditional release from prison on the grounds that no convincing evidence was presented to support the charges brought against him. The CHR, its Correspondents, and members of participating academies in the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies sent many letters to Turkish authorities appealing for Dr. Haberal’s release. (In August 2013, following his conviction, Dr. Haberal was released pending appeal. In early 2016 the convictions in the Ergenekon coup plot were overturned by Turkey’s highest appeals court.)
Executive Committee of H.R. Network Issues Statement in Support of Turkish Academics
September 9, 2016
On Sept 1st, the Turkish government issued a decree dismissing more than 2,000 academic personnel from their positions and permanently banning them from public service, together with over 40,000 public service employees. More than 40 of the academics have been subjected to harassment since January, when they signed a public petition expressing concerns about the humanitarian crisis in southeastern Turkey.
The Executive Committee of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (H.R. Network) has been closely following events in Turkey and is deeply concerned about the continued repressive measures against academics (the Committee on Human Rights serves as Secretariat for the H.R. Network). On September 9, the Executive Committee issued a public statement calling for the government of Turkey to ensure that all scholars who have been removed from their positions solely as a result of having peacefully exercised internationally protected rights are reinstated without delay and that no punitive measures are taken without procedural protections for the individuals concerned. See full statement here.
Exploring the Tensions Between National Security and Academic Freedom
During the 153rd annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, Lisa Anderson, political scientist and former president of the American University in Cairo, spoke at a session convened by the Committee on Human Rights on academic freedom, human rights, and national security. Dr. Anderson's talk, published in Science Diplomacy, addressed global challenges to academic freedom and offered ways in which scientists can respond to such challenges. To see the full version of the article, click here.
Global Scientific Community Expresses Alarm Concerning Repressive Measures Taken Against Turkish Academics
The global scientific community has expressed concern over the repressive measures being taken against Turkish academics following the attempted military coup on July 15. Martin Chalfie, Chair of the Committee on Human Rights of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine commented on the situation, noting that “(p)rotecting national security should not be incompatible with safeguarding fundamental rule of law and human rights principles.” Read more.
Executive Committee of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (H.R. Network) Issues Statement Concerning Repressive Measures against Turkish Academics
July 25, 2016
Members of the H.R. Network’s Executive Committee have closely followed events in Turkey following the attempted military coup on July 15 and are deeply concerned about the increasingly repressive measures being taken against Turkish academics. In the days since the attempted coup, the travel of academics has been restricted, Turkish academics abroad have been instructed to return to Turkey, more than 1,500 deans at universities throughout the country have been asked to tender their resignations, and hundreds of academics have been suspended from their posts.
Members of the Network’s Executive Committee have called for the government of Turkey to ensure that all measures taken in the interest of security are consistent with Turkey’s obligations under international human rights law. See full statement.
CHR at a Glance
The Committee on Human Rights (CHR) has produced a new infographic that provides a snapshot of our current and resolved cases concerning scientists, health professionals, and engineers around the world subjected to severe human rights abuses - whether as a result of their professional work or for having peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression. The infographic also demonstrates the active support we enjoy from members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and highlights our engagement with UNESCO's human rights complaint body.
* Data is taken from July 2016
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|You must scroll through the infographic to see both. |