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For Immediate Release

New Report: Syrian Forces Launched Assault on Country’s Medical System

Report includes new evidence of government forces denying wounded civilians medical treatment

Cambridge, Mass. - 12/16/2011

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today released a report detailing the Syrian government’s all-out assault on the country’s medical system. PHR’s report includes new and alarming evidence that government forces deny wounded civilians impartial medical treatment; invade, attack, and misuse hospitals; attack and impede medical transport, and detain and torture doctors for treating wounded civilians. These documented attacks illustrate the broader violence that the Syrian people have endured over the past several months. 

“Wounded protesters who are seeking much needed medical attention often face fatal repercussions,” said Richard Sollom, Deputy Director at PHR. “Hospitals are supposed to be a place of healing, but instead patients are being dragged away by security forces for interrogation and torture. As a result, the medical personnel who treat these individuals risk not only their career, but also their lives.”

PHR interviewed more than a dozen Syrian doctors, nurses, and hospital volunteers. An estimated 250 doctors have been arrested or interrogated for treating injured protesters in Syria. Some Syrian doctors have established an underground network of makeshift clinics to which they smuggle medical supplies to care for the injured. 

The Assad regime’s direct assault on Syria’s hospitals, doctors, and patients, is in clear violation of the principle of medical neutrality. PHR calls on the Syrian government to respect the principle of medical neutrality and commit to providing emergency medical treatment to all citizens without discrimination. PHR also calls on:

  • The Syrian government to bring to justice all perpetrators of the grave human rights violations documented in this report.
  • The Arab League to continue its commitment to placing international and Arab monitors in Syria to observe the country’s ongoing unrest.
  • The U.N. Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

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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