Daily Dispatch

Patients and doctors fear arrest in Syria


PEOPLE wounded in the crackdown on dissent in Syria, as well as medical personnel trying to treat them, risk arrest and even torture.

Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) doctors, after failing to get permission to work in the country, entered clandestin­ely and managed to reach the rebel stronghold­s of Homs and Idlib, where “patients and medical personnel are hunted down and run the risk of being arrested and tortured,” MSF official Dounia Dekhili told reporters yesterday.

“We are in a very particular situation in Syria: no impartial humanitari­an aid can be brought in, and the harassment of the wounded and doctors is part of the regime’s police strategy,” she added.

“According to Syrian doctors, it is at least as dangerous to be caught caring for the wounded as being caught with a weapon in your hand,” an MSF surgeon who was part of the trip told reporters.

“In a state hospital, we worked as much as we could for three days, but then had to flee in 10 minutes because we feared an imminent attack,” said a surgeon who requested anonymity.

An anaestheti­st who was on the trip said patients want to spend as little time as possible in hospital, going home sometimes less than an hour after undergoing surgery.

“The interests of the wounded and of health personnel should be a priority in Syria,” MSF said in a statement, urging a “redoubling of diplomatic and political efforts”.

MSF’S appeal comes the day after the EU adopted a new set of sanctions against the Syrian regime as a tenuous Un-backed truce entered its second month.

A UN observer mission is tasked with shoring up the ceasefire brokered by Un-arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan that was supposed to take effect on April 12 but which is broken daily.

More than 12 000 people, most of them civilians, have died since the Syrian uprising began, according to the British-based Syrian Observator­y for Human Rights.

More than 900 of these were killed since April 12. — SAPA-AFP

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