The Government’s refusal to intervene in the case of an Irish-owned university in the Middle East which has been at the centre of human rights abuses is to be aired before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva today.
RCSI-MUB (Medical University of Bahrain) is owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and accredited by the Irish Medical Council.
Accreditation from Ireland, which is an internationally respected stamp of approval, was first sought early in 2011 but was not granted until late 2014 because a Medical Council assessment of the facility was postponed amid pro-democracy protests in Bahrain and a violent government crackdown.
It emerged that serious abuses of both injured protestors and the medics treating them took place at three training hospitals used by RCSI-MUB, facilitated in some cases by local hospital administrators with close ties to the military and government.
Dr Ali al-Ekri, who trained with the RCSI in Dublin before returning to Bahrain, was arrested during surgery for treating protestors and is still in jail. Human rights group Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience.
Twenty other medics received jail sentences of up to 15 years.
GLAN, the Global Legal Action Network, a human rights group set up by Irish lawyers, has been campaigning on the issue and secured its inclusion in a list of concerns the Government will be asked to address when Ireland comes up for periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council this afternoon.
GLAN founder, Dr Gearóid Ó Cuinn, said the Medical Council should have refused accreditation or made it conditional on guarantees being put in place around human rights.
The decision to grant unconditional accreditation should have been challenged by the Government, he said.
The Medical Council has said that its role “extends only to looking at the standard of education in medical schools”, a claim Dr Ó Cuinn rejects.
“The Medical Council say it’s for the Government to deal with human rights issues but that’s a very narrow, technical interpretation,” he said.
In an answer to a parliamentary question last year, the education minister said the Government had always sought to draw a clear distinction between the wider human rights situation and the involvement of Irish institutions in the education of medical personnel in Bahrain.
“So what you have is a circular argument,” said Dr Ó Cuinn.
“The Medical Council kicks the issue to the Government and the Government says it has nothing to do with human rights so that allows the Medical Council to act as it has.”
The case and the questions it raises about the human rights obligations of states engaged in educational services abroad are highlighted in the current edition of the International Journal of Human Rights.
“It is is gathering international attention, particularly as the situation in Bahrain hasn’t imp- roved from a human rights perspective,” said Dr Ó Cuinn.
“Ït’s still an imprisonable offence to treat an injured protestor.
“Dr al-Ekri is still in jail yet this situation is deemed to live up to Irish standards. How is that possible?”
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