Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy websites] criticized [HRW press release; DWB press release] Bahrain on Friday for rampant human rights abuses related to anti-government protests. HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork criticized the island kingdom for using the emergency law to trample on human rights and create a state of fear. In a report [text, PDF] released on Thursday, DWB revealed that military-inflicted wounds were being used to identify protesters in hospitals for arrest and denial of medical care, leading many injured to avoid seeking medical care. DWB general director Christopher Stokes expressed frustration:
The action by the military to declare the hospital a legitimate military target, and the use of the health system as a tool by the security apparatus, completely ignores and undermines the fact that all patients have a right to treatment in a safe environment, and that all medical staff have a fundamental duty to administer treatment without discriminationHRW cited reports of 430 missing and detained persons who remain unaccounted for by the government.
Last month, 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 the capital of Manana. Days earlier, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] declared [JURIST report] a three-month state of emergency [decree text, in Arabic] 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 last month, 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.