News / Middle East

    Syrian Government Accused of Targeting Protesters in Hospitals

    Henry Ridgwell

    The Syrian government has turned hospitals into instruments of repression in its efforts to crush opposition, according to a new report by the London-based human rights group Amnesty International. Amnesty says wounded patients in at least four government-run hospitals have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including by medical workers.

    This is one of the videos Amnesty International says backs its accusation that hospital patients are being targeted. Aired on Syrian state television and posted on YouTube in April, the video appears to show a medic hitting an injured protestor.

    Videos like this are impossible to verify independently, because Syria won’t allow Western journalists into the country.

    But Cilina Nasser of Amnesty says the evidence she has gathered is overwhelming. “Even before I came across this video, we received consistent testimonies from wounded persons who were subjected to physical abuse at the hands of health professionals. And also testimonies from health professionals who are outraged by the conduct of their colleagues," she said.

    This video purports to show dead and injured protestors at a private clinic in the coastal city of Banias.  Amnesty says the day after it was posted on YouTube in May, government forces raided the hospital looking for an alleged armed field commander opposed to the government.

    “We have documented two cases, one in Banias where they removed at least 11 wounded persons on 8th May.  And another one that was more recent on September 7th, in Homs, they raided al-Birr wa al-Khadamat Hospital and removed 18 wounded persons.  One of them was on a ventilator, they removed the ventilator and took him along with the others," she said.

    The UN says more than 2,900 people have been killed in the crackdown on anti-government protests since they began in March.

    Activists say 10 people were killed in a crackdown on protests following the capture of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya last week.

    This footage, posted on a social media website, purports to show a man trying to retrieve a protestor’s body from a street in the city of Homs. What happens next is too graphic to broadcast. The rescuer is apparently shot by a sniper. Activists say both men died.

    Cilina Nasser says doctors in hospitals face a tough choice. “They either treat the wounded but they have to report these wounded people to the authorities as instructed by the Ministry of Health and therefore putting the wounded patients at risk of arrest or torture, or they disobey the Ministry of Health and protect the wounded persons, not report them to the authorities, and therefore the health professionals themselves become a target of arrest and torture," she said.

    Nasser says this YouTube video shows a family who tried to care for the father’s gunshot wounds at home. He died after two days. The family tried to preserve the body with ice to avoid having to take it to the morgue.

    According to Amnesty, doctors outside Syria are posting videos on the internet to show Syrians too scared to go to the hospital, how to treat wounds at home.

    Amnesty says it sent numerous letters to the Syrian government asking for a response to the allegations but so far has redeived no answer.

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