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Human rights groups accuse Bahrain of abuses

By the CNN Wire Staff
Bahrainis at the funeral of Issa Abdali Radhi last month in Sitra, who died during a crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Bahrainis at the funeral of Issa Abdali Radhi last month in Sitra, who died during a crackdown on anti-government protesters.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Human Rights Watch says the kingdom engages in arbitrary arrests
  • Doctors Without Borders accuses it of raiding hospitals to detain wounded protesters
  • The kingdom's crown prince says it is doing what it must to stop extremists
  • Bahrain called in foreign troops last month to help quell protests
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(CNN) -- Two top human rights groups criticized Bahrain this week, accusing the gulf kingdom of "rampant arbitrary detentions" and raiding hospitals to crack down on wounded protesters.

Human Rights Watch demanded Friday that the country account for those who have been detained following anti-government protests and free anyone arrested arbitrarily.

"Bahrain has created a state of fear, not a state of safety," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Detainees have been beaten and otherwise abused, some told Human Rights Watch after being freed.

The group said at least 430 people had been detained since anti-government protests began on February 14, citing the opposition Wefaq party as the source of the number.

Human Rights Watch said it had been in touch with the families of a dozen missing people.

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders accuses Bahraini forces of raiding medical facilities to crack down on protesters, prompting injured people to avoid going to hospitals.

"Health facilities are used as bait to identify and arrest those who dare seek treatment," said Latifa Ayada, the organization's medical coordinator. The group is also known by its French name, Medecins Sans Frontieres.

"Wounds, especially those inflicted by distinctive police and military gunfire, are used to identify people for arrest, and the denial of medical care is being used by Bahraini authorities to deter people from protesting," she said as Doctors Without Borders released a report into the phenomenon.

Human Rights Watch made similar accusations in the wake of the storming of Salmaniya Medical Complex on March 16

The country's crown prince defended the government's actions in a speech on Thursday.

"We were immensely concerned that some of our youth were pushed towards a destructive path and that the nation was drawn along with them," Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said, according to an official transcript.

"We took necessary action to preserve lives and the livelihood and interests of all the people, based on our commitment to Islamic and Arab values," he said.

"The problem escalated beyond all limits. Freedoms were misused and overtaken by extremists and their agenda," he argued.

Protests swept the strategically important island kingdom earlier this year as populations across the Arab world rose up against their rulers.

Bahrain, where the United States Navy's Fifth fleet anchors, is a small predominantly Shiite country governed by a Sunni royal family.

It called in Saudi and other regional troops to help end the protests last month.

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