An Al Jazeera investigation has found evidence that Bahrain’s security forces are torturing medical workers to force criminal confessions.
Since pro-democracy protests erupted in the Gulf kingdom in February, doctors and nurses have been targeted, with hundreds facing arrest, Charles Stratford reports in this Al Jazeera exclusive.
The government of Bahrain deployed security forces onto the streets on March 14 in an attempt to quell more than four weeks of protests.
Medics working to save the lives of hundreds of wounded demonstrators were among those threatened and arrested.
“Obviously we remain very concerned about all these reports of human rights abuses there,” Mark Toner, the US state department spokesman, said in response to the violations documented in Stratford’s reports.
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“We’ve been quite clear in our message that there is no security solution to what’s going on in Bahrain and we encourage dialogue and we also ask that the Bahraini government, in any actions it takes against individuals, that it be done in a transparent manner in accordance with international human rights obligations.”
Forty-seven health workers, 24 doctors and 23 nurses have been charged since the protests began, while 150 more are reportedly under investigation by the government.
Some medics reported being taken from their homes by armed masked men.
“We were blindfolded for about 10 hours. Only at the time when [we] were videotaped did they take the blindfolds off,” one medic told Al Jazeera’s Stratford.
“When we started to talk, if they didn’t like the things that we were saying they stopped us and told us again that we should say this this and this.”
The health workers now face trial on charges that include inciting hatred against the Bahraini government.
“Those people who interfered with the accessibility of the hospital to the population of Bahrain are the guys who are responsible for a criminal act and disobedience of the civil service rules of the government of Bahrain,” Mohamed Amin Alawadi, the chief of medical staff at Salmaniya medical complex, told Al Jazeera in response to claims the medical staff were targeted because they treated Shia protesters.
Sabah al-Mukhtar, from the Arab Lawyers Association, told Al Jazeera: “There is a presumption that the judiciary is independent but if the legislation ties the hand of the judiciary in this case the judiciary cannot do very much.”
“I think the judiciary in Bahrain will be just as bad as the other third world countries generally speaking,” he said.
Al Jazeera has been trying to contact the Bahraini government for response to the latest allegations but has heard nothing from the officials so far.
Earlier, Bahraini officials denied an Al Jazeera report that police had carried out raids on girls’ schools, detaining them and beating them, during its crackdown against pro-democracy protesters.
“The allegations made by Al Jazeera English are totally baseless and without credibility,” sources quoted by the Bahraini news agency said.
Bahraini authorities were responding to the first exclusive report by Charles Stratford, where secret filming by our correspondent revealed shocking evidence of the state’s brutal crackdown on dissent.
In its response to that report, the Bahraini government said: “The Bahraini Interior Ministry denies the allegations against Bahrain that were aired on the Al Jazeera channel.
“What was broadcast on the channel was secretly filmed and it is nothing more than an interview with a girl who claimed she was arrested with three others.”
This is the second in a series of exclusive reports from Bahrain.