Health Professionals renew Ceasefire Plea to Syrian Leader

(30.05.2012) Following the horrific massacre of more than 100 civilians in the village of Houla, the World Medical Association has joined other medical organisations in publishing an open letter to the Syrian leader Dr. Bashar al-Assad ‘as a member of the medical community', urging him to order his troops to stop all attacks.

In a joint letter to Dr. Assad, the World Medical Association, the American Medical Association and Physicians for Human Rights, say that assaults on Syria's hospitals, doctors, and patients are a clear violation of the universally recognized principle of medical neutrality. This required non-interference with medical services in times of armed conflict and non-discriminatory treatment of the sick and wounded

Appealing to Dr. Assad as a health professional, the letter declares: ‘As a member of the medical community, we hope you will respect this obligation by ordering your military to cease all attacks on hospitals, medical facilities and vehicles, doctors, nurses, and patients. At the same time, we call on all parties to the current conflict to respect the principle of medical neutrality and commit to providing emergency medical treatment to all citizens without discrimination.'

The signatories to the letter, including WMA President Dr. Jose Gomes do Amaral, say they are writing to Dr. Assad as health professionals, ‘as healers who are ethically and morally bound by our duty to provide treatment and care to those in need-asking you to protect the right to health in Syria'.

‘The world has heard credible accounts that government forces have: denied wounded civilians impartial medical treatment, invaded, attacked, and misused hospitals, attacked and impeded medical transport and detained and tortured doctors for treating wounded civilians.

‘In response, brave medical personnel have risked their lives to care for those caught up in the violence-for families whose homes have been indiscriminately shelled by modern artillery, for innocent civilians who have been injured while running for cover from unprovoked sniper fire.

‘These health professionals have not forgotten their promise to heal-not harm-the people they treat. For more than 2,300 years, this ethical and moral obligation to care for the sick and wounded, without discrimination, has bound the medical community around the world. And it is this commitment that prompts us to speak for the wounded and those who would help them.'

Dr. Gomes do Amaral said: ‘We are calling on Dr. Assad to halt all assaults on Syria's hospitals, doctors and patients. Doctors must be allowed to carry out their ethical duty to treat patients.'

Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, Chair of the WMA, added: ‘The UN Security Council has ruled that the targeting of schools and hospitals should be treated as being a violation of international humanitarian law. Those responsible for the latest atrocities must be brought to justice and held to account'.

The three signatories to the letter are Dr. Jose Gomes do Amaral, President, World Medical Association, Dr. Robert Lawrence, Chair, Physicians for Human Rights and Dr. James L. Madara, CEO and Executive Vice President, American Medical Association.