By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria – On Tuesday, 25 October, Amnesty International issued a report that claims security forces and the medical staff in government-run hospitals in Baniyas, Homs, Tell Kalakh and a military hospital in Homs subjected patients to torture and other ill-treatment. The report entitled “Health Crisis: Syrian Government Targets the Wounded and Health Workers” alleges the government converted hospitals into instruments of repression and targeted patients and medical staff members to quash anti-government opposition.
The report notes the government directed those injured from anti-government activities to receive treatment at the military hospital where they considered patients detainees and held them incommunicado. The medical staff also denied care to some of the patients injured in uprising-affiliated incidents, a gross violation of medical ethics.
Amnesty researcher Cilina Nasser reports security forces appear to have free reign of the hospitals. The report also claims security forces obstructed ambulances with a patient en route to the hospital and interrogated patients while in the ambulance.
Nasser found it disturbing that people reported feeling safer not treating their major wounds rather than seeking treatment at a proper medical facility. The report adds injured people prefer “to seek treatment either at private hospitals or at poorly equipped makeshift field hospitals.”
Furthermore, since the Ministry of Defense controls the blood bank, the hospital must deliberate to contact the blood bank for an injured patient. A medic at a private hospital stated if they contact the Central Blood Bank, “the security would know about him and we would be putting him at risk or arrest and torture, and possibly death in custody.”
Doctors protested hospital raids and attacks, but hospital workers also face arrest and torture. Ahmed, a doctor from Homs, reported many patients disappeared from his hospital. Moreover, he saw a nurse beat a 14-year-old patient with bullet wounds. After he alerted the hospital manager, the nurse told officials Ahmed was a member of an Islamic organization. Rather than following the officials’ request to visit the security building, Ahmed chose to leave Syria.
The government denies torturing its opponents; however, President Assad has promised reform. His critics do not believe the reforms will go far enough, if the government implements them at all.
During a hospital raid in September, security forces failed to find an alleged opposition armed field commander in Homs. They arrested eighteen wounded people; one of these patients was unconscious and needed his ventilator detached before removing him from the hospital.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Syria ‘Using Hospital for Torture’ – Amnesty – 25 Oct 2011
Dalje – Syria Accused of Hospital Repressions – 25 Oct 2011
Haartez – Amnesty: Syria Regime Using Torture in Hospitals to Repress Opposition – 25 Oct 2011
Now Lebanon – Amnesty Condemns “Climate of Fear” in Syrian Hospitals – 25 Oct 2011