World Medical Association Condemns Human Rights Violations In Kosovo

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At a meeting of its Council in Santiago, Chile, today (Friday) the World Medical Association expressed its extreme concern about the situation in Yugoslavia, condemning categorically the appalling human rights violations against ethnic groups and the systematic breaches of medical neutrality in Kosovo.

The WMA also recognised that increased military activity in the region is exacerbating, both directly and indirectly, the suffering of hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Dr Anders Milton, chairman of the World Medical Association Council, said: "The refugees are living in absolutely intolerable conditions. All the parties concerned have a duty to see that the civilian population has access to food, shelter and medical care."

At its 50th General Assembly last year, the WMA adopted a Resolution on the Hague Appeal for Peace. This document supports the establishment of permanent mechanisms of international law for the purposes of disarmament, prevention of war and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The WMA believes strongly that options for non violent resolution to civil and international conflicts must be pursued. Recognising, however, that in today's world war is a reality, the WMA insists that the principles outlined in WMA policy be respected. The following principles were developed by the WMA, initially in 1956 and subsequently revised, to ensure that the spirit of the Geneva Conventions is respected in terms of the duties of health workers, and the protections afforded to them in times of war:

  • Under all circumstances, every person, military or civilian, must receive promptly the care he needs without consideration of sex, race, nationality, religion, political affiliation or any other similar criterion.

  • Any procedure detrimental to the health, physical or mental integrity of a human being is forbidden unless therapeutically justifiable.

  • In emergencies, physicians and associated medical personnel are required to render immediate service to the best of their ability. No distinction shall be made between patients except those justified by medical urgency.

  • The members of medical and auxiliary professions must be granted the protection needed to carry out their professional activities freely. The assistance necessary should be given to them in fulfilling their responsibilities. Free passage should be granted whenever their assistance is required. They should be offered complete professional independence.

  • The fulfilment of medical duties and responsibilities shall in no circumstances be considered an offence. The physician must never be prosecuted for observing professional confidentiality.

Furthermore, the WMA confirms its commitment to the Resolution of Medical Care for Refugees which provides special guidelines for physicians caring for refugees.