There is now a horrifying video evidence of yet another gruesome and inhuman crime in Syria. A hospital worker has provided a video as evidence that medical staff in the distraught Syrian city of Homs is doing the unthinkable; they are torturing the patients in their care.
The hospital worker, who refuses to disclose his actual name for security reasons, had to covertly film the crimes and had to risk his life to bring the plight of what he claims are civilian patients to world attention.
The grainy footage from the Homs military hospital depicts wards full of wounded men, blindfolded and shackled to their beds. Some bear marks of extreme beating. The apparent instruments used to torture these patients – a rubber whip and electrical cable, lie openly in one of the wards. On the orders of the Syrian government, all of those who are shot or injured during protests in Homs must be brought to the military hospital where the staff is in league with the secret police. The hospital worker claims that the torture sometimes goes worse than just beating and lashing.
The evidence of this brutal abuse obviously raises concerns as to where would the hundreds of injured civilians from the district of Baba Amr in Homs will be taken once the Red Cross finally negotiates their evacuation. Thousands of Syrians flee for Lebanon as UN narrates ‘grisly reports’ that civilians are being executed by Assad’s troops.
The whistle blower worker from the hospital says that he attempted several times to stop what he called ‘the shameful things’ which were happening in the hospital. But after being condemned as a ‘traitor’, he walked out in disgust and never went back.
“I have seen detainees being tortured by electrocution, whipping, beating with batons, and by breaking their legs…They twist the feet until the leg breaks. They perform operations without anesthetics. I saw them slamming detainees’ heads against walls. They shackle the patients to beds. They deny them water.” – The hospital worker told Mani, a French photojournalist who risked his own life smuggling the footage out of Syria.
The employee says he witnessed abuse by civilian and military surgeons at the hospital and by other medical staff, including male nurses. He has provided the names of all those he claims worked hand-in-glove with Syrian soldiers and the feared mukhabarat secret police. Sometimes, he says, he heard patients screaming while being kicked or beaten. The abuse took place, he claims, in the hospital’s ambulance section, its prison wards, and the X-ray department and even in the intensive care unit.
“Sometimes they have to amputate limbs and they go gangrenous because they don’t prescribe antibiotics,” – the anonymous whistle blower.
The footage that the hospital worker filmed in the last three months, confirms what the victims of such treatment have long claimed, but the Syrian regime has been denying. This weekend the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said that he was receiving ‘grisly reports of summary executions, arbitrary detentions and torture’ from Homs.
The UN human rights commissioner has already recommended to the Security Council that the Syrian regime be referred to the International Criminal Court, based on the evidence which constitutes crimes against humanity, including torture.
Cilina Nasser, author of an Amnesty International report on mistreatment and torture in Syrian military and state-run hospitals – including the military hospital in Homs – was amazed that anyone would risk his life to film in the torture wards. “This is the first time we have video evidence to corroborate these claims…The new evidence is horrific. Hospitals should be safe places for anyone who needs medical attention and treatment, but it seems that wounded people in Syria have no safe place to go.”
Photojournalist Mani, who spent most of January and February in Homs said, “Ordinary Syrians now consider it too dangerous to go to state-run hospitals if they’re injured. Most opt for hopelessly under-equipped makeshift backstreet clinics…I met a 15-year-old boy who had been shot in the leg by a sniper. His father told me he was too afraid to bring his son to hospital. Even though he was in danger of losing his leg, the boy was treated in his own home by a nurse.” Mani said the employee was distraught at what he had witnessed. “He wept as he talked to me about the torture and the fact that he was powerless to prevent it.”
The hospital employee insisted there were some ‘decent doctors’ who refused to participate in the abuse of patients, but, he said, they were under constant and close surveillance. He claimed that while some of the victims in the military hospital are soldiers who refused to follow orders, most are civilians. Some, he said, had nothing to do with anti-regime demonstrations; others were wounded when their neighborhoods were attacked. Many of those injured, he said, were kept alive so they could be interrogated. Others were admitted to the hospital simply to revive them between torture sessions. “Some of the detainees used to be taken from the hospital to the prison. They’d bring them back either dead or with a brain hemorrhage…The youngest I saw was 14 or 15 years old. Many detainees’ names were removed from emergency admissions lists so that no one would know where they were. There were no names. Just numbers.”
Jonathan Miller is Foreign Affairs Correspondent for Channel 4 News. His full report will be shown at 7pm tonight.
Will these atrocities in Syria end anytime soon? Or will these hospitals remain a torture cell for those who need care?