Bahrain slammed for arresting medics

Bahraini authorities have arrested more than 70 medical professionals since March.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the Bahraini regime for arresting medical professionals and injured anti-government protesters, calling for an investigation into the violations.

In a report published on Monday, HRW urged Manama to immediately end its campaign of arrests of medical personnel and injured anti-regime protesters, saying the arrests have been part of an official policy of retribution against government critics and that Bahraini authorities have so far failed to provide any convincing reason for their actions.

The 54-page report, “Targets of Retribution: Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities,” also documents serious government abuses since the beginning of anti-government protests in Bahrain in mid-February 2011, which include attacks on healthcare providers, denial of medical access to injured protesters, the siege of hospitals and medical centers, and the detention, ill-treatment, torture, and prosecution of medics and anti-regime patients.

“The attacks on medics and wounded protesters have been part of an official policy of retribution against Bahrainis who supported pro-democracy protests,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director.

“Medical personnel who criticized the severe repression were singled out and jailed, among the more than 1,600 Bahrainis facing solitary confinement and ill-treatment in detention and unfair trials before a special military court,” he added.

“The royal family in Bahrain is trying to punish all those people who were very visible and very vocal during protests, and that includes doctors and other medical staff.”

According to the report, Bahraini security forces attacked ambulances and prevented them from picking up injured anti-government protesters, some of them critically wounded. It also said that Bahraini forces prevented ambulances, patients, and medical staff from entering or leaving health facilities.

The report also documents one incident on March 27 in which security forces forcibly removed a 22-year-old injured anti-government protester from a clinic. The patient, who needed immediate surgery to remove more than 100 pellets that had penetrated his pelvic area and damaged internal organs, was taken by security forces.

HRW has been unable to obtain information about his subsequent well-being or whereabouts.

According to HRW, Bahraini authorities have arrested more than 70 medical professionals, including several dozen doctors, and suspended or terminated more than 150 medical workers from their jobs since March, when the country declared martial law as part of a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The medical professionals appeared before a military court for trial in June, in which they were charged with crimes that included participation in efforts to overthrow Bahrain’s monarchy, taking part in illegal rallies and refusing to help persons in need.

But activists and human rights groups say the medical personnel were arrested and are being prosecuted for treating anti-regime protesters.

Bahraini doctors have repeatedly said that they were under professional duty to treat all and rejected claims by the authorities that helping anti-regime protesters was akin to supporting their cause.

Some of the doctors recently released say they were intimidated, abused and forced to sign confessions while in detention.

( / 18.07.2011)

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