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.
In November, 2013, the Center for Public Health and Human Rights of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health convened 19 experts, including Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), from the fields of humanitarian practice, human rights, human security, academic research, government, and philanthropy, along with UN representatives and leaders from health professional associations, at Bellagio, Italy to address the grave problem of attacks on and interference with health care, particularly in times of armed conflict and internal disturbances. PHR and the various experts called upon the international community to advance the security of health, particularly in situations of armed conflict and internal disturbances.
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.
Turkish President Signs Bill that Criminalizes Emergency Medical Care (January 17, 2014)
PHR expressed concern today over the Turkish president’s signing of a bill that will criminalize certain aspects of emergency care and punish medical professionals.
PHR Submits Statement on Syria’s Refugee Crisis to Senate Committee (January 7, 2014)
The United States should immediately convene a humanitarian summit with Russia and other nations in order to improve humanitarian aid in Syria; take steps to allow more Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States; and provide funding to address their health and other needs.
Turkey Passes Bill that Criminalizes Emergency Medical Care (January 3, 2014)
The Turkish parliament passed a bill today that will criminalize emergency medical care and punish doctors with heavy fines and imprisonment for assisting those in need. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is urging the president of the Turkish Republic, Abdullah Gul, not to sign the bill, which would have a chilling effect on access to medical care.
We must unite against health law that threatens medical neutrality in Turkey (British Medical Journal, December 16, 2013)
Our fears of an assault on medical neutrality by the Turkish government have been realised. The article of the draft health law referred to in our BMJ editorial would criminalise the delivery of emergency medical care to everyone in need, not only demonstrators.
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Health Crisis in Rakhine State (March 2, 2014)
While the news that Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) will be allowed to continue their work in most of Burma is certainly welcome, the decision by the Burmese government to shut down the MSF’s operations in Rakhine state continues a trend of denying rights to the Muslim population who lives there.
Sunday Bloody Sunday – Another Day in Syria (February 23, 2014)
As I read about the latest in a string of attacks on Syrian field hospitals and medical staff – this time a car bomb that killed 14 people and wounded 70 in a Syrian town on the Turkish border – the classic and morbid U2 song, which memorializes violence against civilian protesters in Northern Ireland, echoed in my head.
Medical Personnel Targeted in Ukraine (February 21, 2014)
As the dust settles in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, with an agreement between the government and opposition groups, many questions remain. Will there be an independent investigation into the government’s tactics to put down the protests, including the reported use of snipers, which violate the principles on use of force?
On Three-Year Anniversary of Bahrain’s Protests, Medics Remain Imprisoned (February 14, 2014)
In response to peaceful protests demanding greater political freedom and equality that started thee years ago today in Bahrain, the government responded with excessive force, using tear gas as a weapon and targeting activists and health professionals with torture and arbitrary detention.
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PHR and leading medical organizations sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan to express concerns over the Ministry of Health taking punitive actions against physicians, including members of the Turkish Medical Association (TMA), who provided emergency medical care to demonstrators during the Gezi Park protests that begain in May 2013.
An Appeal to President Putin and the Russian Government (February 2014)
As the Olympic Games begin in Sochi, 47 signatories, including PHR broad member, Justice Richard J. Goldstone, callon President Vladimir Putin of Russia to lead efforts to agree on a UN Security Council humanitarian resolution that calls for Syria’s parties to the conflict to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and open Syria’s conflict lines and borders to ensure aid reaches all those in need, including through local ceasefires.
As Olympic Games Open in Sochi, 37 Humanitarian, Human Rights, and Peace Organizations Call for UNSC Resolution to Open Syria to Aid (February 2014)
As the world unites to celebrate the spirit of the Olympic Games, PHR and 36 other organizations call on all members of the Security Council to support a binding resolution demanding all parties to the conflict guarantee safe, full and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations in need in all areas of Syria.
Syria's Medical Community Under Assault (January 2014)
This fact sheet illustrates the deliberate targeting and destruction of medical facilities by government and opposition forces, loss of medical personnel, and resulting health consequences in Syria.
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