Médecins sans Frontières, the international medical humanitarian group, has condemned what it says was an armed raid on its premises in Manama, the Bahraini capital.
On July 28 “armed security personnel violently raided MSF’s premises in Bahrain” and detained one of its staff members, the group said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday. The man arrested was a Bahraini volunteer who drives and translates for the group. Office property was also damaged and medical equipment seized, the humanitarian organisation said.
The Bahraini ministry of health said on Thursday that it was “disappointed” by MSF’s “serious allegations”. The ministry said that MSF was operating from an unlicensed medical centre in a residential apartment building.
The raid comes after four international human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused the Bahraini authorities of a campaign to intimidate doctors and other medical staff suspected of sympathising with recent anti-government protests. No one at the interior ministry could be reached for immediate comment.
Demonstrations led by the majority Shia population rocked the Gulf state and resulted in the deaths of about 30 people in February and March.
“MSF has been transparent about its work and its intentions with the authorities in the country, including the Ministries of Health and Interior,” Jerome Oberreit, Brussels-based director of operations, said in the statement. “As such, we find the violation of MSF facilities and the detention of our volunteer both unwarranted and unacceptable.”
Human Rights Watch, alongside the other three rights groups, has said that more than 70 medics have been arrested since March in a crackdown that followed unrest in Bahrain. Forty-eight medical staff are on trial, charged with incitement against the ruling al-Khalifa family and other offences under Bahraini law.
Protesters have returned to the streets of Manama in recent weeks despite the government’s demolition of their main rallying point, Pearl roundabout. Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched outside the capital on Friday to protest against the conclusion of a “national dialogue” they said had failed to bring real democratic reform in the Gulf archipelago, according to media reports.
Al-Wefaq, the main opposition party, was among the critics of the national dialogue, a state-appointed body tasked with tackling political grievances in the Gulf state. “Everything that’s issued on behalf of the national dialogue does not represent the popular will,” the party said in a statement last week.
An independent commission formed by king Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has started to investigate the violence that took place during the worst of the protests. The king will be sent the commission’s public report by October 30.
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