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For Immediate Release

Both Sides in Syrian Struggle Must Respect Medical Neutrality

Cambridge, Mass. - 07/26/2012

PHR today condemned an alarming tendency by both sides of the violent conflict in Syria to seriously jeopardize the safety and neutrality of medical staff and facilities.

On July 22, Syrian rebels reportedly attacked the Tishreen Military Hospital in Damascus. Government forces responded to the assault by firing at rebels from the hospital roof. Rebel forces are also reported to have occupied and looted a charity hospital in the Sayyida Zainab neighborhood of Damascus.

These incidents followed 15 months of attacks by Syrian government forces on civilian institutions, including medical facilities and services. PHR has previously documented the Syrian government’s attack on the country’s health system since the beginning of the conflict, including instances of denying medical treatment to injured civilians, arresting and torturing doctors and patients, and attacking and misusing hospitals, forcing Syrians to seek medical care through an underground network of field hospitals.

These actions violate international humanitarian law, and people who order attacks on medical facilities or professionals acting in the line of duty, as well as those who fail to stop such acts, can be held accountable for war crimes.

“As the conflict in Syria turns into civil war, both sides are increasingly disregarding human rights, including those of doctors and other medical workers caring for the wounded,” said Donna McKay, Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights. “All attacks on medical facilities and personnel are a violation of medical neutrality and must stop immediately.”

All Syrians have a right to health and medical care, in peacetime and during times of armed conflict alike. PHR calls on both sides to respect medical neutrality and human rights by ceasing at once their attacks on hospitals and doctors, their looting of medical supplies and equipment, and their use of hospitals to detain and torture their adversaries.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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