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Report: Syrian military hospitals torturing patients

Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET: Syrian doctors tortured patients brought into a military hospital in the battered city of Homs, according to a hospital employee who filmed the apparent evidence. The video was broadcast by Britain's Channel 4 News Monday.

Later on Tuesday, the United Nations said it had similar footage.

The very graphic video, which the news channel said was filmed covertly, showed severely wounded men blindfolded and chained to hospital beds. A rubber whip and an electrical cable sit on a table in one room.


"I have seen detainees being tortured by electrocution, whipping, beating with batons, and by breaking their legs," the employee told a French photojournalist who reportedly smuggled the video outside of Syria, according to Channel 4.

The authenticity of the film could not be independently verified. 

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The hospital employee said he tried to stop "the shameful things" that were happening but was called a traitor. 

He said the torture was carried out by civilian and military surgeons and other medical staff including nurses. It reportedly took place in the ambulance section, the prison ward, the X-ray department and the intensive care unit. The footage was filmed over the past three months, Channel 4 said.

U.S. and European governments have been pleading for Russia to rethink his anti-interventionist stance on Syria, in what appeared to be an increasingly desperate effort for consensus among world powers to stop a crackdown that has killed more than 7,500 people.

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Hussein Malla / AP

Hundreds of Syrians, like this child and her family, have fled besieged areas in and around Homs for Lebanon or the Lebanon-Syria border.

Hundreds fled to neighboring Lebanon on Monday fearing they'd be massacred in their homes.

Calls for action to protect civilians have grown louder as the Alawite-led security apparatus cracked down on protests and an uprising that has its roots in the majority Sunni community and which has raised the prospect of civil war in Syria.

'Pictures are truly shocking'
A U.N. commission of inquiry last November documented cases of injured people taken to military hospitals where they were beaten and tortured during interrogation.

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"The High Commissioner was sent this footage by Channel 4 yesterday. In fact we have some similar footage," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Tuesday.

"It may even be the same footage which was sent to the commission of inquiry on Syria," Colville, a spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, said at a news briefing. "The pictures are truly shocking."

A U.N. inquiry documented evidence that sections of Homs military hospital and Latakia state hospital were "transformed into torture centers actually within the hospitals," he said.

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Torture has been documented in Syria for 40 years, "usually carried out under the cloak of permanent security legislation," Colville said, adding: "The brutality of the country's security forces is notorious."

"Methods of torture, most of which are known to have been used in Syria over many years, not just in the past year, include severe beatings, electric shocks, suspension for long periods by the limbs, psychological torture and routine humiliation," he added.

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Msnbc.com staff and Reuters contributed to this report.