In Syria, the resurgence of violence is affecting the population and targeting wounded people, medical staff and health structures. We, Doctors of the World - Médecins du monde (MdM), are calling for all parties to respect the rules of international law in times of war, including respecting medical care providers and their ethical obligation to provide care.
Today, in Syria, medical care is being manipulated, and sometimes even used as a weapon. Health professionals are murdered and tortured; hospitals are inaccessible to the wounded who fear reprisals and there are constant barriers to receiving medical care in hospitals and in bombed and besieged areas.
Secretly carrying medicines is now a crime. Today, violence toward civilians knows no bounds: there are an estimated 19,000 dead, in addition to thousands of prison detainees, hundreds of thousands of displaced people or refugees, and how many wounded with no medical care? As shocking as it may sound, this is the real face of this conflict.
In light of this terrible reality, and even while access to victims is still limited, it is our duty to forcefully speak out against this situation and to hold the belligerents to account. We feel it is important to recall some obvious facts, which so far seem to have been forgotten:
- We, Doctors of the World, reject the bombing and killing of civilians, including women and children
During times of war, civilians must be protected.
- We, Doctors of the World, reject the execution and torture of doctors simply because they treat the wounded without discrimination.
During times of war, doctors and medical staff must be protected.
- We, Doctors of the World, reject the targeting of hospitals and their use as places of torture and repression.
During times of war, the wounded must be protected, hospitals must be safe havens and doctors have a duty to heal their patients.
- We, Doctors of the World, reject the hampering of medical action and subjecting relief staff to violence or attacks.
During times of war, access to the wounded and civilians must be facilitated for health professionals.
- We, Doctors of the World, remind all parties that every person has the right to receive medical care under any circumstances and anywhere, without prejudice.
The third article common to the four Geneva conventions applicable to non-international armed conflicts sets out what constitutes a minimum of humane treatment.
In Syria, as elsewhere, there are rules of international law that all actors in the conflict must respect.