UN warns Bahrain over crackdown

Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon calls King Hamad to express his "deepest concern" about use of force against protesters.

    Our special correspondent, whom we are not naming for security reasons, filed this report from Bahrain.

    The United Nations has warned Bahrain that its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters might be breaking international law.

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, called King Hamad of the Gulf state on Thursday to express his "deepest concern" about Bahrain''s use of force, which allegedly includes security forces preventing doctors from treating injured protesters.

    The secretary-general, who called during a visit to Guatemala, "expressed his deepest concern over reports of excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the security forces and police in Bahrain against unarmed civilians, including, allegedly, against medical personnel," a UN statement said.

    He also "noted that such actions could be in breach of international humanitarian and human rights law".

    Valerie Amos, the UN''s deputy secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, earlier urged security forces "to refrain from excessive use of force, and to respect medical facilities and ensure the treatment of wounded persons".

    Navi Pillay, the UN rights chief, said any takeover by the security forces of hospitals and medical facilities was a "blatant violation of international law... This is shocking and illegal conduct".

    Friday burials

    Bahrain''s Sunni Muslim rulers are using force to stop Shia-led protesters in the strategic Gulf kingdom, raising alarm in Washington and sparking condemnation from Iran, Shia leaders in Iraq and the Shia movement Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    Early on Friday, Bahrainis prepared to bury an activist killed on Wednesday, but it was not clear if large numbers of people would turn out for the funeral as they had for some of the seven killed in last month's crackdown.

    The opposition vowed late Thursday to press on with "peaceful" demonstrations, undeterred by the military force deployed to quell their protests.

    "We will not give up to the army," Sheikh Ali Salman, a Shia cleric and the head of Al-Wefaq association, said.

    "We insist on the peaceful aspect of our activities and we shall not be dragged into... confrontations."

    Dissidents have been rounded up at gunpoint in midnight raids and armed police stood outside Manama''s main hospital on Thursday, amid reports the authorities were beating doctors and denying treatment to the wounded.

    Activists arrested

    Five Shia activists and one Sunni dissident were arrested after the army imposed a curfew on parts of Manama using its powers under newly imposed martial law, opposition sources said.

    Bahrain''s military confirmed it had arrested a number of people for crimes including sedition, murder and having contact with foreign states, but gave no details.

    Security forces firing tear gas and shotguns cleared out a pro-democracy tent city at Pearl Roundabout on Wednesday in the worst day of violence since activists took to the streets last month.

    The opposition said three demonstrators were killed in the raid, while the government said two police died in hit-and-run attacks by opposition motorists.

    On Wednesday, Barack Obama, the US president, called King Hamad to express "deep concern" about the crackdown.

    Earlier, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, criticised the deployment of Gulf Cooperation Council troops - from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - in Bahrain to quell political unrest as the wrong response.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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