WMA condemns arrests of physicians for treating injured demonstrators

Threats and arbitrary arrests of doctors in Belarus for having treated people injured in the country’s demonstrations are facing strong condemnation from the World Medical Association. Protests have been taking place in the country since August against alleged electoral fraud.

WMA President Dr. David Barbe expressed the WMA’s grave concern about the alarming escalation of human right violations in Belarus, with the authorities resorting to arrests and disproportionate use of force against demonstrators. Cases of physicians harassed and arrested for appealing for an end to violence by the security force, have been reported, as well as claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in custody.

‘The WMA cannot emphasise enough the importance of the principle of medical neutrality, whereby physicians must be allowed to care for the sick and wounded, regardless of their political affiliations or opinions. The reports we are getting from Belarus indicate that this principle is being totally undermined. The medical professionals we represent have an ethical duty to denounce the use of violence and its long term health effects’.

‘We support the recent call from Dr. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to put an immediate end to the continuing human rights violations in the country’.

Dr. Barbe urged Belarusian representatives to honour their obligations when they ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.