Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mr Hypocrisy's Administration

Bombs for Libya and yawns for Bahrain.

Hospitals show ugly truth about Bahrain, as US looks the other way

"Tiny Bahrain, a vital American ally in the Gulf region, is reimaging itself as a classic Cold War police state in the aftermath of the democracy uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.

The island's Sunni hereditary monarchy, which presents itself to the world as a ''constitutional monarchy'', was ahead of the reform curve that erupted in Tunisia in January - three months earlier it set about repressing political parties and arresting majority Shiite activists by the hundreds.

But in the aftermath of declaring a state of emergency, still being enforced by troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, it is the kingdom's hospitals through which the world can see the uglier side of a regime which, compared with those in Libya and Syria, has earned only the mildest of rebukes from the Obama administration.

Despite denials by island authorities, reputable non-government organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Medecins Sans Frontieres have documented systematic intimidation of doctors and other medical staff who might treat injured demonstrators and a takeover of health facilities by the security forces in an attempt to round up demonstrators.

Since the Saudi-backed crackdown in March, mass demonstrations have petered out in Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. But mass arrests continue, government workers suspected of involvement in the protests are being hounded from their jobs and the authorities have embarked on a media witch-hunt.

New emergency regulations authorise security forces to invade houses without a warrant and to dissolve political parties, unions and any organisations they deem to be a danger to the state. They can censor television, newspapers and the internet; and they may seal off whole sections of the country.

As many as 30 protesters were killed, hundreds are being held in unknown detention and 35 are listed as ''missing''. Those who have been released complain of torture by electrical shock, beatings and sexual abuse.

Amid reports of some hospitals being empty of patients, MSF accused the regime of using health facilities as ''bait'', with police sweeps looking for injuries consistent with involvement in protests - and then hauling away the patients.

A report by MSF concluded that the regime crackdown had ''paralysed'' hospitals and turned them into ''places to be feared''.

Human Rights Watch staff saw a patient being informed that his details would have to be included in a request for blood as part of his treatment - and 90 minutes later, the arrival at the hospital of a 10-strong police team who hauled the patient away."



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