Anti-regime patients tortured in stte hospitals

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The Independent Online

Syrian security forces and some medical staff routinely abuse and torture injured patients suspected of participating in anti-regime activity, turning the country's state hospitals into "instruments of repression", Amnesty International claims in a new report.

Medics who treat wounded protesters also face arrest and torture by the Syrian authorities, the report claims.

The findings highlight the increasingly brutal tactics of President Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime as he struggles to contain a seven-month uprising against his rule with a crackdown that the United Nations claims has left more than 3,000 dead.

The Syrian authorities say they are putting down an armed insurgency, particularly in the city of Homs. Anti-government protests began largely peacefully in Syria, but as the number of defections from the military has increased, armed clashes have become more common. Some civilians have also taken up arms for their own protection.

Many Syrians seeking medical treatment are now avoiding state hospitals, fearful that they will be arrested or tortured by the security services. Instead, they are turning either to private hospitals or makeshift field clinics that are quickly running out of supplies.

Cilina Nasser, an Amnesty researcher, said: "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."

Many of the more egregious abuses uncovered by Amnesty in at least four state-run hospitals have occurred in Homs. Medics reported patients, sometimes gravely wounded, disappearing from their hospital beds overnight, and security forces beating people up in their beds or subjecting them to torture, often seriously aggravating their condition.