"Government forces committed a long list of international law violations in their abusive occupation of Yafran hospital, putting a lot of lives at unnecessary risk," Stork said. "All parties to Libya's conflict need to protect, hospitals, medical workers, and patients under all circumstances."
Witness Accounts from the Hospital
Human Rights Watch visited Yafran General Hospital from June 19 to 24, and interviewed four doctors, six nurses, and a patient present during the hospital's occupation by government forces. All but one asked that their names not be used because they feared that government forces might return. Human Rights Watch also interviewed in private a captured government soldier who had taken part in the hospital occupation.
A hospital patient in his 40s from the nearby town of Zintan said:
No one could leave the hospital, especially me, since I was locked up inside my room for seven days because I am from Zintan. They threatened that if I went outside my room, they would shoot me. They came to my room with guns. They would shoot from inside the grounds, just outside my window, with a Kalashnikov [AK-47 assault rifle]. They never actually hurt me but they would insult me, threaten me, say they would cut off my ears or my fingers. They did that all the time. I was scared that one of them would come back at nighttime and shoot me, so sometimes I would change which bed I slept in.
A foreign doctor who had brought his family to the hospital for safety after the Civil Guard looted the town told Human Rights Watch:
When the Haras al-Shabi came [to the town], they robbed and destroyed all the homes. We were terrorized. They stole my television, fridge, washing machine, everything. We couldn't move, leave or sleep. They were in the hospital, and I was afraid they would be violent to our wives and daughters.
A nurse told Human Rights Watch that, on May 1, Civil Guard forces returned to the hospital and took him away. They detained him for 24 days in several places, including in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, he said, and tortured him during interrogation:
On May 1 three guys from Haras al-Shabi in forest camouflage came to the hospital in a car at 2 p.m. They entered the hospital and asked the military commander for permission to take me out of the hospital for investigation. They said they would then bring me back. They took me to [the nearby town of] al-Milayeb. The second day, they started beating me with iron rods and giving me electric shocks. At night, there were about six people who came and beat me up, punching me, kicking me, hitting me with a stick on my head.
The third day in the morning, they took me and 20 other people in the back of a truck and transferred us to Camp 77 [apparently a training camp for government security forces] in Tripoli. The driver told one of the Haras al-Shabi guys that he had a nurse, so the guy kicked me in my testicles. I was in my green hospital uniform, and one of the Haras al-Shabi guys came to me and started kicking me in the face and in the eyes. My left eye was swollen for seven days. The first two days I couldn't see, then I started recovering. At 11 p.m. the same day, they transferred us to Abu Salim prison [in Tripoli]. Eventually they told me they captured me because I had treated rebel fighters at the hospital.
A nurse who stayed in the hospital during the military's occupation explained the atmosphere of intimidation for female hospital staff:
It was Friday [in mid-May] around 3:30 a.m. My friend and I were
sleeping in my room. Some person knocked on my door. When I said, "Who
is there," no one answered. We thought maybe it was Bangladeshi nurses,
but two men in uniform entered the room, and one of them sat on my bed.
We were afraid of these army people because sometimes they did bad
things. The way they looked at us around the hospital was not good.
Sometimes they said something we didn't understand, but we knew it was
not good. [Afterward] we talked to the director about what happened, and
he said that the army commander said sorry and that it would not happen
again. He said he had punished the men. We didn't see those guys after. (source)
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