GENEVA (Reuters) - Bahrain must rein in its security forces after allegations they had killed protesters and attacked medical workers, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Thursday.
Pillay voiced alarm at what she called the illegal “military takeover of hospitals” in the kingdom, where Bahraini forces used tanks and helicopters on Wednesday to drive protesters off the streets.
“There are reports of arbitrary arrests, killings, beatings of protesters and of medical personnel, and of the takeover of hospitals and medical centers by various security forces,” she said in a statement. “This is shocking and illegal conduct.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also voiced alarm at the escalation in violence which it said had led to more deaths and scores of injured in recent days.
Security forces must uphold international standards on the use of force while trying to restore law and order and all wounded must have safe and unimpeded access to medical care, the humanitarian agency said in a statement.
“All people arrested and detained must at all times be treated humanely and held in decent conditions.”
Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge, said those who carried out such acts, even under orders, could be held criminally liable.
The reported violations against pro-democracy activists related to Bahraini police, defense forces and troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Peninsula Shield Force, she said.
Some 1,000 Saudi soldiers and 500 United Arab Emirates police officers entered Bahrain this week.
“I urge the government not to use force against unarmed protesters, to facilitate medical treatment for the injured, to disarm the vigilante groups, including security officials wearing plain clothes, and I also urge the protesters and the government to engage in immediate dialogue for meaningful reforms and an end to violence,” Pillay said.
Bahrain arrested at least six opposition leaders on Thursday, a day after its crackdown on protests by the Shi‘ite Muslim majority drew rare U.S. criticism and raised fears of a regional conflict.
Pillay said her office had received allegations that “automatic weapons may also have been used to shoot live ammunition at protesters and passers-by.”
Plainclothes security personnel had also been seen using “clubs, knives, swords and rocks to attack protesters.”
She had reports that security personnel had physically attacked medical workers at Manama’s main hospital and were “preventing staff and patients from entering or leaving.”
Editing by Janet Lawrence