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Amnesty report: Syria government using hospitals to repress opposition

The Syrian government has been utilizing state-run hospitals and their personnel to abuse wounded protesters, according to an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; press release] published Tuesday. The report alleges that since the anti-government protests began, Syrian government officials have violated international human rights laws by intercepting ambulances, raiding hospitals and abusing hospital patients believed to be associated with the protests. Hospitals are required to report patients suspected of involvement in the protests to the authorities, and doctors who treat these patients have allegedly been subject to detention and torture. Additionally, AI alleges that doctors and nurses on the staff in some hospitals have participated in abuse and denial of care to suspected protesters. The report found that many Syrians are not comfortable seeking care at state hospitals, and have sought out alternative medical care:

Although prohibited by international human rights law and a serious breach of medical ethics, healthcare personnel have denied treatment to wounded patients on the basis of their real or presumed political affiliations. As well, security crackdowns and violent confrontations in the vicinity of healthcare facilities, and the occupation of facilities by armed forces and security personnel have prevented access to them by the wounded. People wounded in the unrest have become fearful of using state-run hospitals in case this leads to their being seen as government opponents and targeted for reprisals.
AI has called on the Syrian government to require equal treatment of patients in state hospitals, call off abusive behavior by hospital employees and government officials, and immediately cease the unlawful detention of Syrian doctors. The Syrian government did not immediately respond to the report.

Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [statement] the international community to take steps to protect civilian lives in Syria [JURIST report], where more than 3,000 civilians have been killed since protests against the government began. This statement followed a report from a UN commission urging [statement] Syrian authorities to allow human rights experts to conduct an investigation [JURIST report] into allegations of human rights violations. In August, Pillay called on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] to investigate the violent suppression of anti-government protests [JURIST report]. Pillay's remarks came after the Fact-finding Mission in Syria published its 22-page report concluding that Syrian government forces cracking down on the opposition may be committing crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. The Fact-finding Mission was established [JURIST report] by the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in April but was not permitted to enter the country.

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