Persecution of Health Workers
Physicians and other health professionals all over the world face persecution resulting from adhering to their duty to provide nondiscriminatory treatment of the injured and sick. PHR documents the deliberate targeting of health care systems and personnel, and advocates accountability for violators.
Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are trained to treat those in need – regardless of politics, race, or religion. Attacks on health professionals violate the principle of medical neutrality and are grave breaches of international law.
PHR's emergency report documented and decried systematic human rights abuses in Bahrain during and after unrest in February and March 2011. For the first time, forensic evidence documented government attacks on physicians, medical staff, patients, and unarmed civilians with the use of bird shot, physical beatings, rubber bullets, tear gas, and unidentified chemical agents.
Doctor Arash Alaei and Doctor Kamiar Alaei, two well-known Iranian brothers working in the field of HIV/AIDS, were detained without charge in June 2008 by Iranian authorities. The government used the doctors’ travel to international AIDS conferences as a basis for subsequently charging and convicting the doctors of conspiring with an enemy government — a dangerous conflation of public health diplomacy with treason. PHR worked tirelessly from the moment of the doctors' detention, leading the global movement resulting in their release (Dr. Kamiar in late 2010, Dr. Arash in summer 2011), working to persuade the government of Iran that treating AIDS is not a crime.
Since mid-March, 2011, Syrian government forces have sought to crush citizen uprisings. More than 1,700 people have been killed and at least 10,000 are reported to be in custody or missing. In addition to the widely reported atrocities committed by the government, PHR has discovered reports of serious violations of medical neutrality in Syria. PHR is calling on the Government of Syria to cease its campaign of targeting medical facilities and health workers and their patients, and to safeguard doctors’ obligation to provide neutral and ethical care for civilians.
Turkish Government Considering Criminalizing Emergency Care (November 26, 2013)
In its latest attempt to harass medical professionals and the injured demonstrators they treat, the government of Turkey is considering a health bill that would criminalize certain aspects of emergency medical care and force doctors to compromise their professional duty to treat those in need.
PHR Calls for Unfettered Access for Humanitarian Assistance in Syria (November 26, 2013)
PHR is calling on the U.S. government to immediately enter into high-level negotiations with the Russian government to ensure unfettered access in Syria for the International Committee of the Red Cross and other U.N. and humanitarian organizations that urgently need to provide vital services and supplies.
PHR Reiterates Call to Release Imprisoned Medics in Bahrain and Stop Shipment of Tear Gas (November 22, 2013)
PHR today reaffirmed its call to the Bahraini government to immediately release medical professionals who have been wrongfully prisoned and stop the ongoing targeting of the medical community.
PHR Documents Unlawful Use of Force and Tear Gas and Attacks on Medical Community in Turkey (September 25, 2013)
The Turkish government has engaged in unnecessary and excessive violence, used tear gas as a weapon on a massive scale, and intentionally targeted medical facilities and staff during the June demonstrations, according to a new report by Physicians for Human Rights.
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Recent Kidnappings Add Further Obstacles to Eradicating Polio in Pakistan (November 27, 2013)
Physicians for Human Rights has long-condemned the use of health care workers for intelligence work, as it destroys the trust necessary for effective doctor-patient relationships and leaves patients suspicious of doctors’ medical advice. Kidnappings that took place in Pakistan recently are just one example among many of distrust of health care workers, which has served to increase the number of polio cases in the country.
Discovering Inspiration in Tragedy (November 18, 2013)
“I’m upset – feeling guilty for leaving colleagues working in extreme circumstances in Syria. But I will document the violations. That is my contribution.” - Syrian refugee doctor
Polio and Starvation - Latest Indicators of Humanitarian Crisis in Syria (November 8, 2013)
The health crisis in Syria has reached alarming proportions, threatening not only the Syrian population, but also its neighbors, and requires an immediate international response.
Why You Should Join This International Campaign (October 25, 2013)
This month marks the anniversary of a terrible event: the October 2012 attempt on Dr. Denis Mukwege's life at his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
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A Message from Behind Bars in Bahrain (November 2013)
Three medics currently jailed in Bahrain, Ibrahim Aldemestani, Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, and Hassan Salman Al-Maatouq, wrote this letter calling on the world to recognize their unjust imprisonment for upholding principles of medical neutrality.
Letter to Turkish Minister of Health on Draft Health Law (November 2013)
PHR and leading medical organizations sent a letter to the Turkish Minister of Heath expressing concern about a draft health law being considered by the Turkish parliament.
Introduction to Medical Neutrality (November 2013)
This fact sheet provides an overview of medical neutrality, the ethics and laws behind it, and PHR’s reporting on when it’s violated.
Medical Neutrality and the Use of Weaponized Tear Gas in Bahrain (November 2013)
The Bahraini government’s response to the early 2011 pro-democracy protests was brutal, systematic, and violent. This fact sheet provides an overview of Bahrain’s violations of medical neutrality and its weaponized use of tear gas.
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