March 17, 2011 / 11:49 AM / 7 years ago

Medical group condemns attacks on doctors in unrest

LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - Doctors and medical staff are increasingly being attacked and killed during uprisings and protests, the World Medical Association (WMA) said.

“Physicians have an ethical duty to care for their patients, and governments have a duty to ensure that appropriate conditions exist to allow them to do so,” the WMA’s president, Dr. Wonchat Subhachaturas, said in a statement on Thursday.

“We are receiving an increasing number of reports from the fighting in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, from Mexico, India and from Afghanistan, of medical personnel and facilities being attacked.”

He condemned such attacks as intolerable. The WMA press release said “physicians involved in treating the wounded in several recent protests have been killed or attacked”.

The WMA said its latest reports of assaults on doctors had come from physicians in Bahrain, where according to Amnesty International the attacks were “unprovoked and unjustifiable and in breach of international law enforcement standards”.

The medical group called on Bahrain authorities to investigate such attacks and bring those responsible to justice.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday it had withdrawn its aid workers from Libya’s second city, Benghazi, and many international aid agencies have been unable to enter Libya at all.

The WMA will use its council meeting in Sydney next month to discuss what more can be done to protect doctors and other medical workers during armed conflicts.

One proposal being put forward is that there should be an international mechanism for reporting and documenting acts of violence against medical personnel and facilities.

“We will now be considering whether more should be done by the international community to collect evidence of assaults on medical personnel and facilities to enable those responsible to be prosecuted,” said Subhachaturas. (Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Robert Woodward)

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