Last updated: 30 May, 2011

Bahrain denies abusing female Shiite doctors

Bahrain’s interior ministry on Monday denied claims made to AFP by female Shiite doctors that they were abused and tortured while in detention over their alleged backing for anti-regime protests.

“The claims and allegations made by female doctors in the AFP report are not only baseless but scurrilous,” said a ministry statement emailed to the agency.

“The Bahrain authorities affirm that very high standards of human rights norms are being followed at all detention / interrogation centres in the country.”

Several female doctors who were released recently had told AFP they were abused and tortured at the hands of interrogators in detention centres, amid a massive crackdown on the Shiite majority after security forces quelled a month-long protest in mid-March.

The women said they were forced under severe beating and verbal abuse to confess to backing their co-religionist protesters and abusing their positions.

Some said they were made to testify against colleagues at Salmaniya hospital accused of lying and exaggerating on satellite channels to pile pressure on the government.

There were also claims of verbal sexual harassment.

AFP tried unsuccessfully to get an official response to the claims at the time of publishing the report on Sunday.

“No doctor arrested for violation of medical ethics at Salmaniya Medical Complex has been charged arbitrarily nor on trumped-up charges,” said the interior ministry statement.

It said they have all been “charged with criminal offences in accordance with the relevant sections of the Bahrain Penal Code,” adding that a number of the doctors were released on bail on “humanitarian grounds” and are under house arrest.

“Bahrain has pledged to take serious action against any form of torture or mistreatment by security forces of those under detention or interrogation,” it said, adding that detainees have the right to file official complaints in case of maltreatment by security forces.

“All detainees have access to lawyers and, through them, they can bring to the notice of the courts and authorities any instances of mistreatment,” it said.

The authorities have said that 47 medics — 24 doctors and 23 nurses — have been referred to a special court set up under the state of national safety declared by King Hamad a day before the March 16 crackdown on demonstrators.

Authorities have said that 24 people, including four policemen, were killed in the unrest.

Bahrain was strongly criticised by rights groups for its heavy-handed clampdown on Shiites following the crushing of the protests demanding major political reforms in the kingdom ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.