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BAHRAIN: Rights groups raise alarm about 'rampant' arbitrary detentions, doctors reported missing

April 9, 2011 |  8:43 am

Bahrain_protest_AP110313015197_244x183 Weeks after Bahraini security forces crushed an anti-government protest movement that sprung up in mid-February this year, rights groups are raising alarm about alleged sweeping arbitrary detentions in the country and the recent disappearances of some medical staff, including a doctor who was photographed weeping over a victim of a police crackdown on a demonstration.

According to the U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights, a number of doctors have gone missing at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in the Bahraini capital Manama following recent interrogations by security forces.

“We know of at least two doctors who have disappeared in the last 24 hours,” said Richard Sollom, the organization's lead investigator, in a recent press release published earlier this week.

PHR says the disappearances do not appear to be isolated incidents but rather part of a wider crackdown on medics in the country.

“They seem to be part of a systematic attack on doctors in Bahrain. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have an ethical duty to prevent and limit suffering of patients in their care, and a duty to practice medicine in a neutral way without fear or favor," said the statement.

Meanwhile, rights watchdog Human Rights Watch identifies two medics in a recently published list of people that the group says have been detained in Bahrain in recent weeks. The organization says arrests and detentions have even gone up since the crushing of the anti-government protest movement in mid-March.

According to HRW's research, Bahraini police detained Nahad al-Shirawi, a physician in Salmaniya's intensive care unit on April 4. Shirawi's father told the organization that he suspected that the police took his daughter because she had been photographed crying over a dead victim of a police clampdown on a protest. 

Another medic, Jalila al-Aali, who works as an endocrinologist at the Salmaniya Hospital, also disappeared on April 4 after officials called her in for interrogation, according to HRW. When family members the next day called the Adliya Criminal Investigation Directorate, where she allegedly had been kept overnight, they were told by a police officer that Aali was not there and declined to say where she was. 

HRW claims that arbitrary detention remains "rampant" in Bahrain and says the names of 430 people have been reported to an opposition political society over the last six weeks by family members who say their loved ones are being held by security or military authorities.

The rights watchdog said that the Bahraini authorities have yet to issue a registry of detainees since anti-government demonstrations started in mid-February this year and called on the government to account for all those who have been taken into custody and to release the people who are being detained.

Media reports said on Saturday that Bahraini authorities detained and beat up the well-known Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in a predawn raid. Al-Khawaja's daughter, Zainab, said her father was taken from her house in a Shiite village near the Bahraini capital.

According to HRW, Bahraini police have routinely carried out nighttime raids on villages and invaded residences looking for people they suspect of partaking in or supporting anti-government protests.

--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Anti-government protesters bury tear gas canisters fired by security forces in the Bahraini capital March 13. Credit: Associated Press 

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