Skip to Main Content
Printer Friendly Home > Press > Press Releases

For Immediate Release

PHR Calls for Independent Investigation of Apparent Chemical Weapon Attack in Syria

Media Contact

Vesna Jaksic Lowe, MS

Media Relations Manager, New York
Tel: 917-679-0110

New York, NY - 08/21/2013

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today called for an independent and thorough investigation into a possible chemical attack in the Ghouta region of eastern Damascus.

“Disturbing evidence emerging out of Syria points to the immediate need for a thorough and independent investigation into whether chemical weapons have been used,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “During this ongoing crisis, it is crucial that doctors and other health professionals be able to provide unobstructed medical care so that they can correctly diagnose, treat and document any injuries and deaths resulting from the use of chemical weapons.”

PHR is making fact sheets on chemical weapons available in English and Arabic in order to help educate and provide guidance for doctors and first responders.

Graphic videos that have surfaced this week show what appears to be the aftermath of an attack in Syria. The videos have not been independently verified, but the U.N. Security Council agreed to hold an emergency session this afternoon following reports from opposition groups that hundreds of civilians were killed in a chemical weapon attack.

PHR is calling on Syria to immediately grant access to the site of the attack to the U.N. team currently in the country to investigate earlier reports of chemical weapons use, and for humanitarian agencies to be provided with unimpeded access in order to be able to provide medical care and protection. PHR has also been asking the Security Council to refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court so that perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity would be held accountable.

The death toll in Syria has reportedly exceeded 100,000. PHR experts have previously documented attacks on the medical community in Syria, including torture and killings of health care providers, as well as obstruction of medical treatment.

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

PHR News