Medical Personnel Are Targeted in Syria

from Physicians for Human Rights
Published on 14 May 2019 View Original

Medical professionals are often on the front lines in conflict situations, propping up civilian communities suffering from violence, abuse, and deprivation. Nowhere has this been truer than in Syria. But in a context where the targeting of civilians has played such a prominent role in the prosecution of the war, medical professionals have all too often been violently prevented from carrying out their duties through persecution, torture, and killings.

As first responders, medical personnel also see up close the wounds and evidence of violence and torture in their patients. Persecution of medical professionals is often part of oppressive governments’ intentional strategies of silencing these powerful witnesses.

PHR uses open source data and field sources to document the deaths of medical personnel killed in Syria since March 2011. PHR has assessed that the Syrian government and their Russian allies are responsible for 90 percent of the deaths of medical personnel throughout the conflict. Responsibility for the remaining 10 percent lies with non-state armed groups, including ISIS, international coalition forces, Kurdish forces, or unidentified forces. The targeting of medical personnel is a violation of international humanitarian law (IHL), and those responsible must be held accountable. When medical workers are killed, the human toll is not just their lives, but also the exponential number of people who will suffer without treatment and the many lives that will be lost as a result.

Throughout the conflict in Syria, the Syrian government has systematically targeted medical facilities and personnel, killing doctors, nurses, and others as they care for the sick and injured in hospitals, clinics, and in the field. Health professionals have also been arrested, disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, and executed – often for upholding their professional commitment to treat all patients, regardless of political affiliation. PHR has documented the deaths of 890 medical personnel from the start of the conflict in 2011 through December 2018.