Syria Accuses 'Armed Gangs' of Preventing Medical Access


Armed gangs were responsible for preventing injured security forces victims of pro-reform protests receiving medical treatment, Syrian authorities said on Wednesday.

"Certain media have compiled baseless accusations saying the Syrian authorities prevented the injured from going to hospital for treatment," an Interior Ministry statement said.

"It was armed men who prevented ambulances carrying 34 wounded policemen to hospital in Daraa on April 8," the statement continued, referring to the southern flashpoint which has been the epicenter of anti-regime demonstration.

The statement echoed a previous ministry communiqué on Sunday in which it said: "Armed gangs blocked the road in Banias (in the northwest) to prevent ambulances from getting to military wounded and taking them to hospital."

"In addition, the armed gang opened fire on the medical teams," the statement added.

On Tuesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Syrian security forces in at least two towns of preventing medics reaching wounded protesters when clashes erupted at anti-government demonstrations last week.

The group said the "inhumane" and "illegal" blocking of access to medical treatment occurred in the southern town of Daraa, the center of a wave of protests against President Bashar Assad, and Harasta near Damascus.

"Barring people from needed medical care causes grave suffering and perhaps irreparable harm," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director.

"To deprive wounded people of critical and perhaps life-saving medical treatment is both inhumane and illegal."

She urged Syrian authorities to allow injured protesters unimpeded access to medical treatment and to stop using unjustified lethal force against anti-government protesters.

The rights group said it had interviewed doctors as well as injured protesters and their relatives in Daraa and Harasta and the town of Douma.