NGOs tell Bahrain to stop hospital crackdown

April 23, 2011 - 0:0

MANAMA - Three non-governmental groups said Bahrain must halt human rights violations and a crackdown on hospitals where doctors and patients suspected of having joined pro-democracy protests were being arrested.

London-based Amnesty International called on Bahrain's Western partners to urge Manama to end arrests of medical staff and opposition activists, Reuters reported.
It accused Western governments of staying silent because of Bahrain's strategic location as home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and its importance as a Persian Gulf trade partner.
""North American and European governments, so vocal recently in espousing the cause of human rights in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, need also to speak out loudly about what is going on in Bahrain,"" said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Paris-based Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) Friday said Bahrain had turned hospitals into ""places to be feared,"" where both doctors and patients suspected of having a role in the protests were detained.
""Wounds are used to identify demonstrators, restricted access to health care is being used to deter people from protesting, and those who dare to seek treatment in health facilities are being arrested,"" the aid group said.
Some doctors were too afraid to treat patients wounded during the unrest for fear of getting arrested, it said.
U.S.-based rights group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said doctors were disappearing as part of systematic action.
""The excessive use of force against unarmed civilians, patients in hospitals and medical personnel that PHR's investigators documented is extremely troubling and is cause for an immediate international investigation,"" the group said in a statement Friday.
The main Shia opposition party Wefaq said this week more doctors and other medical staff were arrested this week for unknown reasons.
Hundreds have been sacked from government jobs, rights and opposition groups say. Bahrain says it targets only those who committed crimes during the unrest in March.
----- Crackdown continues
In another development, Saudi-backed Bahraini troops have opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in the village of Karzakan, injuring at least one protester.
Witnesses say the wounded protester was taken away by security forces, a Press TV correspondent reported.
Hundreds of anti-regime demonstrators also poured into the streets in the northwestern Bahraini village of Diraz on 'Qur'an Friday,' condemning the government's brutal crackdown on protesters.
Following the protest rally, security forces backed by military tanks and bulldozers rolled into the village. Diraz residents say authorities are planning to destroy village's mosques.
Last month, the Persian Gulf Arab kingdom crushed mainly protests by declaring martial law, inviting in troops from neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and arresting hundreds of people, many of them activists or doctors.
Since the beginning of anti-regime protests in Bahrain, authorities have reportedly demolished nearly 30 mosques across the Persian Gulf state.
Some of the mosques were located in Karzakan, Salmabad, Bu Quwah, and A'ali.
Also on Friday, Saudi-backed Bahraini troops entered Sitra and Malikiyah to prevent anti-government protest rallies.
The recent protests in Bahrain come while pro-government media is trying to show that the anti-government demonstrations have ended and that life has returned to normal.
According to state media, the Bahraini king has ordered compensation be paid to soldiers and security staff wounded in protests, including housing and other benefits for their families.
Dozens of protesters have been killed and scores have been injured since the uprising began in Bahrain in mid-February.
Protesters are demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty.
Protesters say they will continue their street demonstrations until their demands for freedom, constitutional monarchy as well as a proportional voice in the government are met.