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HRW urges Bahrain to end attacks on medics, patients linked to protests

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday urged [press release] the Bahraini government to end systematic attacks on injured patients and stop arresting medical professionals linked to recent anti-government protests. In a 54-page report [text, PDF] entitled "Targets of Retribution: Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities," HRW presents evidence that Bahraini authorities have attacked health care providers, denied medical access to protesters injured by security forces, seized hospitals and health centers, and detained, mistreated, tortured and prosecuted medical professionals and patients. Documentation of the abuses began on February 17, when protestors and bystanders were attacked by government security forces during what HRW described as largely peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. The invasion and capture of medical facilities has left injured protestors without necessary medical attention and exacerbated their conditions, HRW reported. Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East Director at HRW, contends that the systematic attacks are unfounded and constitute efforts to exact revenge on protestors:

The attacks on medics and wounded protesters have been part of an official policy of retribution against Bahrainis who supported pro-democracy protests. 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. Officials justify the government's crackdown and the arrests of the medics by alleging that they violated the principle of medical neutrality and committed heinous crimes. Yet they have failed to provide any convincing evidence that their actions are anything but a campaign of retribution aimed at silencing government critics.
The Bahraini government alleges that actions by protesters and medical staff compelled security and military forces to intervene. According to the report, over 30 people have died during the protest aftermath.

A Bahrain court arraigned 47 doctors and nurses [JURIST report] in June on charges of trying to overthrow the government and participating in illegal demonstrations when they helped treat injured protesters at the Salmaniya Medical Complex [official website], a state-run center in Bahrain's capital, Manama. Human rights organizations including HRW and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy websites], in April, criticized [JURIST report] Bahrain for rampant human rights abuses related to anti-government protests. In March, six opposition leaders were arrested [JURIST report] in Bahrain after the government, backed by foreign troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) [official website], violently dispersed protesters in Manana. Days earlier, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] declared a three-month state of emergency [JURIST report] in response to growing unrest in the island nation. The state of emergency came just days after a group of 22 Bahraini lawmakers, part of an independent pro-government bloc, called on the King to impose martial law [JURIST report] under articles 36 and 123 of the Bahraini Constitution [text, PDF]. Also in March, the member states of the GCC, which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, deployed troops to Bahrain [BBC report] for the purpose of guarding oil installations and financial institutions. The Bahraini government's response to the ongoing protests have prompted international concern. In February, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called for an end to violence against protesters [JURIST report] in the country, referencing attempts to quell protests sweeping across the region.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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