Saying sporadic protests began last summer, major ones began for regime change on February 14, the tenth anniversary of the public referendum on the Bahrain National Action Charter - a monarchy reform initiative to end years of 1990s political unrest.
Wanting constitutionally mandated elected government, greater parliamentary authority, political freedom, social justice, and ending discrimination against majority Shias, many thousands defied government demands for weeks, braving police attacks with tear gas, beatings, rubber bullets, live fire, arrests, torture, and disappearances until March 14 when over 1,500 Saudi Arabia-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military and police security forces invaded Bahrain guns blazing.
They attacked peaceful protesters, arrested opposition leaders and activists, occupied the country, denied wounded men and women medical treatment, and imposed police state control in support of the hated monarchy.
At the same time, Bahrain is a signatory to nearly every major international humanitarian and human rights law, including:
- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
- the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
- the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and
- the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), among others.
On April 22, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) condemned the violence in a public statement and new report titled, "DO NO HARM: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients," as well as against protesters demanding change.
In mid-March, under Saudi occupation, King Hamad declared a state of emergency, set up checkpoints, and used excessive force against peaceful demonstrations. Moreover, calling Salmaniya Hospital a "stronghold of the opposition protesters," security forces occupied it, denied treatment to wounded patients, arrested doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, as well as human rights activists, bloggers, and other pro-democracy supporters.
As a result, dozens were killed, many hundreds detained or disappeared, and some fear an "undeclared war." Under Article 36(b) of Bahrain's 2002 Constitution, King Hamad may declare a state of national safety, saying:
"A state of national safety or martial law shall be proclaimed only by Decree. In all cases, martial law cannot be proclaimed for a period exceeding three months. This period may not be renewed except with the consent of the majority of the members of the National Assembly present (having no legislative authority)."
Article 32(b) vests the king with executive authority, "together with the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet) and Ministers," appointed by him.
Article 123 states:
"It is impermissible to suspend any provision of this Constitution except during the proclamation of martial law, and within the limits prescribed by law. It is not permissible under any circumstances to suspend the convening of the Consultative Council or the Chamber of Deputies during that period or to infringe upon the immunity of their members, or during the proclamation of a state of national safety."
According to King Hamad's March 15 declaration, Bahrain's military head may now "take necessary steps to restore national security," helped by repressive Saudi occupier muscle. The decree also bans trade unions, political and NGO groups, as well as opposition publications.
Moreover, curfews have been imposed. Transportation infrastructure is controlled. Suspected regime opponents are being arrested. Phone, Internet and other forms of communication are being monitored, and everyone is vulnerable to inspections and surveillance.
In repressive crackdowns, security forces are indiscriminately using brute force, including high velocity weapons, shotguns, rubber bullets, birdshot, beatings, tear gas, and live fire against unarmed civilians, as well as against targeted individuals at close range.
Moreover, aluminum canisters containing six large solid rubber bullets are being used. When fired, multiple projectiles explode, hitting human targets indiscriminately with force enough to cause serious injuries or death.
PHR also documented tear gas used in enclosed places, including homes, as well as unidentified chemical agents based on first hand observation of one protester who exhibited neurological symptoms, corroborated by testimonies from three Bahraini healthcare professionals who'd witnessed or treated dozens of patients similarly diagnosed.
Their symptoms included disorientation, respiratory distress, shortness of breath, sensations of choking, spastic convulsions, burning, aphasia, and hysteria.
Since mid-February, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff have been systematically targeted. PHR corroborated testimonies about middle of the night abductions, beatings, and detentions incommunicado at unknown interrogation centers.
As a result, a senior UN human rights official called "the targeting of medical workers deeply distressing." Another UN torture expert denounced "the appalling killing and ill-treatment of protestors, including those in hospitals." The World Medical Association (WMA) demanded accountability for those responsible, saying:
"Physicians have an ethical duty to care for their patients, and governments have a duty to ensure that appropriate conditions exist to allow them to do so."
Nonetheless, on March 15, Salamaniya Hospital was militarized, staff members terrorized, abducted, interrogated, and detained, including leading Bahraini specialists. PHR also documented egregious abuses against patients and detainees, including torture, beatings, verbal abuse, humiliation, and threatened rape, other sexual abuse, or death.
In fact, testimonies obtained from 47 informants were consistent with a systematic, coordinated campaign to abduct, detain, and torture civilians involved in February and March pro-democracy demonstrations. Methods used to arrest them include:
- roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the country, focusing on Shia areas;
- checking medical records for smoke inhalation or bullet wounds;
- published, televised, or Internet photos of protesters;
- international media and other observers in Bahrain who spoke to protesters, doctors, or other eyewitnesses;
- nightly raids in Shia communities;
- information gotten through torture; and
- posing as health professionals in stolen ambulances.
On April 8, PHR representatives visited Salmaniya Hospital. "(T)he team saw a large-caliber tank gun and an armed soldier standing up in the turret holding an assault rifle. Lined up directly in front of the main emergency entrance were 16 police vehicles and 20 fully armed Bahraini riot policemen."
Inside, security forces, riot police and special forces occupied every floor, wearing masks to conceal their identity.
PHR, however, said at no time did Bahrain face an imminent threat throughout the crisis, and found no evidence that pro-democracy protesters were armed during demonstrations. Nonetheless, police state terror threatens everyone challenging regime power, including doctors and other medical staff for doing their job.
At the same time, while using an alleged Libyan humanitarian crisis as a pretext for intervention, Obama officials are indifferent to appalling Bahraini state terror against peaceful pro-democracy protesters. A dismissive April 12 State Department advisory merely called the situation "fluid," saying "daily routines are returning to normal...." The brazen hypocrisy requires no further comment.
A previous article discussed police state terror in Bahrain, accessed through the following link:
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|Timothy V. Gatto|
|William A. Cook|