GRAPHIC video images of injured patients allegedly tortured by doctors in a military hospital in Homs, Syria have been revealed by Channel 4 News.
The covert footage shows wards of wounded men, blindfolded and shackled to their beds. Some show evidence of beatings.
In a chilling indication that their ordeal has been endured in the hospital itself, a rubber whip and an electric cable lie on a table in one of the wards.
Medical and human rights experts consider that that doctors intentionally inflicting torture on hospital patients to be a gross breach of medical ethics.
The footage appears to corroborate allegations of widespread use of torture in Syrian hospitals by opponents of the Assad regime, but could not be independently verified.
Electric cables are known to be one of the most commonly used instruments of torture in Syria, where they are used repeatedly to beat a suspect's feet into a bloody pulp, a practice known as "falaka".
The victim is then often forced to walk across a floor sprinkled with salt, described by some of those who have experienced it as far more painful than the beating itself.
The footage was recorded by an unidentified employee at the hospital and was spirited out of Syria by a French news photographer.
The employee testified that civilian and military surgeons at the hospital, as well as male nurses and other medical staff, were involved in perpetrating abuses against wounded patients.
"I have seen detainees being tortured by electrocution, whipping, beating with batons, and by breaking their legs," he told the photographer.
"They twist the feet until the leg breaks. They perform operations without anaesthetics. I saw them slamming detainees' heads against walls. They shackle the patients to beds. They deny them water."
The military hospital in Homs is among the most infamous in the country.
It was one of four government hospitals - including a second in Homs - identified by Amnesty International last October as places where evidence of torture was rife, although the practice was also suspected of existing in other state medical facilities elsewhere in the country.
Testimony gathered from numerous witnesses indicated that even teenage boys were being beaten, urinated on and taunted by both medical staff and the secret police.
"In many cases hospital staff appear to have taken part in torture and ill treatment of the very people they are supposed to care for," said Cilina Nasser, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa researcher.
Many doctors who were threatened for refusing to endorse torture in their hospitals have been arrested or forced to flee the country, according to activists.
The knowledge of their likely fate has forced many protesters shot during anti-government demonstrators to seek treatment in badly equipped makeshift field hospitals, where they are tended to alongside wounded rebels.
But many still end up in government hospitals if they are caught by regime forces. Captured activists, demonstrators and rebels being held in government torture facilities are also sometimes brought to the hospitals if they are close to death, it is claimed.
Channel 4 journalist Jonathan Miller said: At the Tishreen Military Hospital, just north of the capital, I put the allegations to its director, General Faysal Hassan, who insisted that wounded insurgents and injured civilian protestors are accorded the same level of care as any other patient.
"If a terrorist comes injured, we give him every treatment," the General said. "And armed civilians."
"So what is your reaction to allegations that military doctors are refusing to treat injured protestors and are even doing worse – are involved in acts of torture?" I asked.
"This is untrue," he said. After which, he denied that Syrian army tanks would ever fire into civilian neighbourhoods.”
The latest allegations raise renewed fears for the fate of civilians in pro-opposition parts of Homs after rebels withdrew from Baba Amr and other districts in the city following the most intensive bombardment of the year-long uprising against Mr Assad experienced anywhere in Syria.
Over the weekend, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, said he had received "grisly reports of summary execution, arbitrary detentions and torture" in Homs.