Persecution of Health Workers
Physicians and other health professionals all over the world face persecution resulting from adhering to their duty to provide nondiscriminatory treatment of the injured and sick. PHR documents the deliberate targeting of health care systems and personnel, and advocates accountability for violators.
Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are trained to treat those in need – regardless of politics, race, or religion. Attacks on health professionals violate the principle of medical neutrality and are grave breaches of international law.
PHR's emergency report documented and decried systematic human rights abuses in Bahrain during and after unrest in February and March 2011. For the first time, forensic evidence documented government attacks on physicians, medical staff, patients, and unarmed civilians with the use of bird shot, physical beatings, rubber bullets, tear gas, and unidentified chemical agents.
Doctor Arash Alaei and Doctor Kamiar Alaei, two well-known Iranian brothers working in the field of HIV/AIDS, were detained without charge in June 2008 by Iranian authorities. The government used the doctors’ travel to international AIDS conferences as a basis for subsequently charging and convicting the doctors of conspiring with an enemy government — a dangerous conflation of public health diplomacy with treason. PHR worked tirelessly from the moment of the doctors' detention, leading the global movement resulting in their release (Dr. Kamiar in late 2010, Dr. Arash in summer 2011), working to persuade the government of Iran that treating AIDS is not a crime.
Since mid-March, 2011, Syrian government forces have sought to crush citizen uprisings. More than 1,700 people have been killed and at least 10,000 are reported to be in custody or missing. In addition to the widely reported atrocities committed by the government, PHR has discovered reports of serious violations of medical neutrality in Syria. PHR is calling on the Government of Syria to cease its campaign of targeting medical facilities and health workers and their patients, and to safeguard doctors’ obligation to provide neutral and ethical care for civilians.
PHR-Led Bill to Protect Health Workers Introduced (May 16, 2013)
PHR today helped introduce a bill that would protect health workers globally from increasing attacks during times of war and unrest, and ensure they can continue to provide services without fear of violence, retribution, or arrest.
How Doctors Would Know If Syrians Were Hit With Nerve Gas (NPR.org, May 1, 2013)
President Obama affirmed Tuesday that there's evidence Syrians have been attacked with chemical weapons — in particular, nerve gas. But that's not the same as proof positive. So PHR is setting up a network to get fact sheets about chemical weapons into the hands of Syrian physicians.
Independent Investigation and Forensic Protocols Are Key to Assessing Chemical Weapons Use (April 26, 2013)
Amid accumulating signs that chemical weapons may have been used recently in Syria, PHR repeats its call for a thorough independent investigation of such allegations to be conducted immediately that follows forensic protocols for handling evidence.
PHR welcomes a Bahrain appeals court’s decision today to reverse the convictions of 21 health professionals arrested in connection with Arab spring pro-democracy protests in 2011.
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The cancellation of an international medical ethics conference that had been scheduled for April 10-12 in Bahrain is another sign that the country’s rulers continue a systematic pattern of politicizing medical affairs.
Stained Glass Transparency: Bahrain’s Latest Obfuscation of International Human Rights Accountability (April 25, 2013)
Bahrain has again indefinitely postponed a visit by the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, the latest in a series of attempts to deter human rights observers from scrutinizing the kingdom’s dismal human records record. The government told the rapporteur, Juan Méndez, that his visit could be “immensely damaging” to the Bahrain National Dialogue, an initiative that should welcome such a visit if it truly seeks to promote reform.
A Congolese Hero is Welcomed Home (January 15, 2013)
In October, 2012, Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and renowned gynecological surgeon who has treated thousands of victims of sexual assault and brutal rape, was the target of an assassination attempt in his home in Bukavu. His family was terrorized, and his trusted aide and guard, Joseph Bizimana, was murdered while defending Dr. Mukwege. After the attack, the Mukwege family left the DRC and took refuge in Belgium, and then in the US for several weeks. His absence from Panzi was keenly felt, and his return the cause of much joy. PHR’s DRC Coordinator, Caroline Dauber, describes his homecoming.
Capitol Hill Briefing Spotlights Bahrain’s Lack of Progress in Bolstering Human Rights (November 15, 2012)
Nearly one year after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released a report recommending legal and policy changes to improve human rights in that country, the kingdom’s regime has failed to live up to its pledge to implement those changes, according to panelists at a Congressional briefing Wednesday.
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PHR Endorses Statement of International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict on the Attack Against Dr. Denis Mukwege (October 2012)
Physicians for Human Rights, a founding Advisory Committee member of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, strongly endorses the statement the Campaign released today following the violent attack last week on our esteemed colleague Dr. Denis Mukwege in Bukavu, DRC.
Two Senators and 22 Representatives jointly signed a letter to the King of Bahrain today, calling on him to pardon eight medical professionals convicted for providing medical care to injured protesters.
Rights Organizations Call on US Secretary of State to Suspend Military Assistance to Bahrain (September 2012)
PHR joined ten other organizations in calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately suspend US military assistance and arms transfers to security force units in Bahrain that are engaging in human rights violations.
Richard Sollom Testifies Before Lantos Human Rights Commission on Bahrain's Use of Tear Gas (August 2012)
At the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on the “Implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Report”, Richard Sollom testified about PHR's investigation of Bahrain's use of toxic chemical agents ("tear gas") against civilians.
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