Amnesty: Syrian hospitals become tools of repression

Wounded patients in government-run hospitals subjected to torture; hospital workers suspected of treating protesters faced arrest.

By REUTERS
October 25, 2011 12:12
2 minute read.
Syrian President Bashar Assad with army generals

Syrian President Bashar Assad with his army generals 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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LONDON - The Syrian government has turned hospitals into "instruments of repression" in its drive to crush opposition, the human rights group Amnesty International said on Monday.

Wounded patients in at least four government-run hospitals have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including by medical staff, Amnesty said in a report.

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Other hospital workers suspected of treating protesters and others injured during demonstrations have themselves faced arrest and torture, it added.

"It is deeply alarming that the Syrian authorities seem to have given the security forces a free rein in hospitals, and that in many cases hospital staff appear to have taken part in torture and ill treatment of the very people they are supposed to care for," Cilina Nasser, an Amnesty researcher, said.

Syria has intensified a crackdown on protests and an armed insurgency despite Western condemnation. The United Nations says the crackdown has killed 3,000 people.

Syrian authorities say they are fighting armed terrorist groups in the central city of Homs who have killed civilians, security forces and prominent figures.

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Amnesty International said patients have been assaulted by medical staff, health workers and security personnel in the national hospitals in Homs, the coastal city of Banias and the border town of Tel Kelakh, and at the military hospital in Homs.

One doctor at Homs military hospital told Amnesty International he had seen four doctors and more than 20 nurses abusing patients.

One man was delivered unconscious to the national hospital in Tel Kelakh on Aug. 22 after being beaten by security forces, the report said.

"There were around seven or eight security men, some carrying rifles, and nurses wearing white robes crowded around him. He opened his eyes and said: 'Where am I?' They all suddenly jumped on him and started beating him and hitting him," Amnesty quoted a witness who saw him in the emergency room as saying.

Patients have also been removed from hospitals. On Sept. 7, security forces looking for an alleged armed field commander opposed to the government raided al-Birr wa al-Khadamat Hospital in Homs, the report said.

When they did not find him, they arrested 18 wounded people, it said.

Afraid of the consequences of going to a government hospital, many people have chosen to seek treatment either at private hospitals or at poorly equipped makeshift field hospitals, Amnesty said.

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