Bahrain: UN officials alarmed by security forces’ invasion of hospitals

17 March 2011

The top United Nations human rights and humanitarian officials today voiced alarm over the escalation of violence by security forces in Bahrain, particularly the reported takeover of hospitals and medical centres in the country, which she said was shocking and a blatant violation of international law.

Bahraini authorities have intensified a crackdown against demonstrators after weeks of mass protests by people calling for political reform in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

“My office has been receiving desperate calls and emails from numerous individuals in Bahrain, terrified about the armed forces’ intentions,” said Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a press release.

“There are reports of arbitrary arrests, killings, beatings of protesters and of medical personnel, and of the takeover of hospitals and medical centres by various security forces. These reportedly include Bahraini police, defence forces and troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Peninsula Shield Force.

“This is shocking and illegal conduct. Police and armed forces must immediately leave health-care facilities and cease their harassment and intimidation of health professionals,” she added.

Ms. Pillay noted with concern that the King of Bahrain on Tuesday declared a three-month state of emergency. She reminded the authorities that fundamental rights, such as the rights to life, and to be secure from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, cannot be derogated, even in a public emergency.

Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, also voiced grave concern today at the reports of many deaths or injuries among the protesters, and the “extremely troubling reports of wounded persons being denied access to medical facilities and of ill-treatment and harassment of medical personnel.”

Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, called on Bahraini authorities to refrain from excessive use of force and to respect medical facilities and ensure the treatment of wounded persons.

Their comments were issued as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also noted with concern that troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council, had reportedly entered Bahrain.

 

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