x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Human rights group blasts 'systematic attacks' on Bahraini medics

In a report, Physicians for Human Rights said it had "forensic evidence of attacks on physicians, medical staff, patients and unarmed civilians".

DUBAI // Physicians for Human Rights on Friday slammed "systematic attacks" on medical staff in Bahrain after security forces quelled Shiite-led protests demanding democratic reforms.

In a report titled "Do not harm: A call for Bahrain to end systematic attacks on doctors and patients," the US-based non-governmental organisation said it had "forensic evidence of attacks on physicians, medical staff, patients and unarmed civilians."

The Shiite-majority kingdom which is ruled by a the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty was the scene of a month-long protest before security forces chased protesters out of the capital's Pearl Square where they had camped out.

Security forces also staged a crackdown on Shiite villages and arrested hundreds, according to NGOs, as 24 people were killed in the unrest.

"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," said Hans Hogrefe, PHR's Washington director.

"Attacks on hospitals, ambulances and medical clinics are attacks on the very fabric of the community and harm the health of the whole country," he said.

PHR said that medical personnel became the target for attacks for providing "unbiased care" for wounded protesters, charging that such attacks "violate the principle of 'medical neutrality' and are grave breaches of international law."

Bahraini authorities were strongly criticised for their heavy-handed clampdown on medics at Manama's Salmaniya Medical Complex which was stormed by police after forces attacked protesters at Pearl Square, on March 16.

Manama claimed that protesters and sympathising medics had turned the complex into an anti-regime protest hub.

Amnesty International said Thursday that more than 500 people were detained over the past month in Bahrain, warning of a "rapidly worsening human rights crisis."