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For Immediate Release

PHR Experts Comment on Video Footage from Syria

Media Contact

Vesna Jaksic Lowe, MS

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

New York, NY - 08/23/2013

A team of experts from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has reviewed footage of a number of publicly available videos emerging from Syria, along with reports of events leading up to the filmed footage, and concluded that there is compelling medical evidence that chemical weapons or other lethal gases have been used. The organization issued the following statement:

The videos show multiple scenes with dozens of casualties with no apparent signs of trauma, injury, or bleeding. In some cases, apparent survivors are experiencing agonal breathing, which is a sign of imminent respiratory failure and death, as well as copious oral and nasal secretions and vomiting. This medical evidence is consistent with reports by Syrian medical sources describing a pattern of symptoms, including acute respiratory distress, pupillary constriction, excessive oral and nasal secretions and vomiting, all of which suggest exposure to an organophosphate such as sarin. While we can’t speak about the authenticity of the videos, the consistency of the clinical evidence emerging from these videos in multiple locations indicates the use of a chemical weapon or another lethal agent. The videos also indicate an appalling lack of adequate medical supplies, including oxygen, endotracheal tubes, nasogastric suction, respiratory ventilators, basic medications such as atropine, benzodiazepines, and IVs fluids, and appropriate medical personnel.

It is crucially important that an immediate and thorough investigation be conducted, and the U.N. team currently in Damascus be granted unfettered access to the scene of the reported attack in the Ghouta region. The Syrian government’s refusal to grant such access is a slap in the face to the international community and should not be tolerated. Evidence of such grave and large-scale human rights abuses must be urgently investigated in order to stop these violations and hold perpetrators accountable. It is also imperative that the Syrian government ensures that medical professionals are given adequate resources and protection so that they can correctly diagnose, treat and document any injuries and deaths.

Note: The following video clips are examples of several of more than 100 videos and photos examined by the PHR team. Please be advised the images are graphic and may not be appropriate for young viewers.

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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