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For Immediate Release

President Obama’s Call for Assad to Step Down is Positive Step

Physicians for Human Rights also calls for accountability for human rights violations

08/18/2011

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) applauds President Obama’s decision today to call on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to step down following the brutal assaults on pro-democracy protesters. Today’s announcement is the first time the Administration has clearly stated its support for the ouster of Assad. 

PHR sources have documented serious attacks against civilians, in which more than 1,700 people have been killed. The Syrian government has engaged in rampant and widespread criminality, including violations of medical neutrality. 

While the Administration’s call for President Assad’s resignation and announcement of additional sanctions are important steps forward, all perpetrators of grave human rights violations must be held accountable for their actions. Instilling a tradition of accountability will bolster the trajectory of democracy in Syria.

PHR also strongly supports the efforts of the US in calling for a UN Human Rights Council special session on Syria, and is thankful for the work the US and its partners have done in keeping Syria off this international human rights body. We also support the Administration’s increased sanctions against the Syrian government and the mitigation of any unintended consequences of the sanctions on the Syrian people. 

“Today, the US Administration took a strong stand in solidarity with the Syrian people. By pushing for the end of the Assad regime, the US is trying to create real political space for the Syrian people to determine their future,” said Hans Hogrefe, PHR Washington Director and Chief Policy Officer, “However, the widespread human rights violations and the many deaths caused by the brutal crackdown cannot be absolved by a simple resignation. Instead, there must be full accountability for the perpetrators.”

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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