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For Immediate Release

Libyan Attacks on Hospitals, Patients, and Medical Professionals Must End

PHR calls for investigations into reported crimes

Cambridge, Mass - 03/02/2011

In Libya during the past two weeks, forces under the command of President Muammar Gaddafi have carried out appalling assaults on the sick, the wounded, and on medical professionals. Unconscionable acts have been reported, including the shooting and killing of patients and fighting inside hospitals and clinics and from medical vehicles.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) calls for an immediate end to these alleged violent attacks on civilians and a halt to all interference with medical care in Libya.

"Those who have shot and killed the sick and wounded in cold blood and who have prevented injured patients from receiving care should be prosecuted and punished,” said Frank Donaghue, PHR’s CEO. "Hospitals should be places of healing, not terror, and these crimes shock the conscience.”

PHR applauds the unanimous UN Security Council vote referring the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court and supports an immediate international investigation into these crimes which constitute gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

Reports from a variety of news, medical, and human rights sources, as well as several eye-witness accounts collected by PHR include:

  • Armed men storming local clinics
  • Patients disappearing from hospitals
  • Shooting inside clinics and hospitals
  • Bodies being removed from morgues and disposed of secretly
  • Forces firing on ambulances
  • Gunmen using ambulances to fire on protestors
  • Injured being shot dead instead of being taken to hospitals
  • Attacks on health professionals
  • Medical staff and supplies being kept from people who need them

"Individuals and leaders who continue to allow and encourage these crimes — or worse yet, carry them out — must be held individually responsible for them. Each and every violation should be documented for the purpose of accountability and to prevent future atrocities,” said Donaghue. "International human rights monitors and investigators should be allowed immediate access to the country. The International Committee of the Red Cross should also be granted unfettered access to Libya.”

In numerous conflicts, from former Yugoslavia to El Salvador to Somalia, PHR has documented and decried attacks on medical personnel and interference in the delivery of care. Such acts constitute gross violations of human rights and customary international law under the Geneva Conventions.

"PHR salutes the courageous health professionals in Libya who have risked gunfire and attacks within hospitals, who have set up makeshift clinics and convoys to deliver desperately needed medical care and supplies to the sick and the wounded, and who have worked tirelessly to fulfill their medical duties in spite of these overwhelming obstacles,” said Donaghue.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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