Assaults on medical care in war-torn areas stir cry for justice

Thanassis Cambanis’s “Medicine under fire” (Ideas, Feb. 23) correctly highlights the need for new and creative solutions to address what authors in The Lancet call the “militarization of health care,” but does not mention the critical importance of accountability for these crimes.

The scale and impunity with which the Assad regime and some opposition groups have targeted medical personnel, facilities, and transports in Syria is unprecedented. Doctors fleeing Syria share horrific tales of detention, torture, and execution of medical colleagues condemned for doing their job of caring for all patients, regardless of their political views. Both sides have deliberately targeted hospitals, field clinics, ambulances, and medical supply vehicles. These crimes, which violate the principle of medical neutrality, have compounded the suffering of civilians and devastated an already crippled health care system.

At Physicians for Human Rights, we have been working with activists, including doctors and lawyers, to document these crimes so that they are not swept under the rug in post-conflict negotiations. It is up to the international community to ensure that adequate justice forums are available to hold perpetrators responsible for the horror inflicted on Syrian people by the assault on medical care.

Christy Fujio

Director of Middle East and

North Africa training

Physicians for Human Rights