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Doctors as victims

Handcuffed man
  • Egypt

    Canadian doctor begins hunger strike in Egyptian custody

    The BMA has written to Egypt's interim president, minister of defence and public prosecutor, expressing concern at the treatment of Canadian nationals Dr Tarek Loubani and Professor John Greyson, who began a hunger strike in Egyptian custody on 16 September 2013, having been detained by security forces since 16 August.

    Dr Loubani was on his way to the university hospital in Gaza, accompanied by filmmaker Professor Greyson, when they were caught up in clashes in Ramsis Square, Cairo, between supporters of Egypt’s deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, the security forces and local residents.

    They were arrested at 10pm that evening when they approached the security forces to ask for directions to their hotel. The men are currently detained in Tora Prison, south of Cairo, where they have access to their lawyers and consular representatives.

    Dr Loubani and Professor Greyson are being detained while security forces investigate charges that they were involved in “destroying public property”, “violence”, “carrying weapons” and “inciting violence”. The pair are being held with hundreds of Egyptians who were arrested during the clashes on 16 August, as well as other foreign nationals caught up in the violence.

    Amnesty International has raised concerns that, as with the hundreds of others arrested that day, Dr Loubani and Professor Greyson have been accused of a broad array of offences without apparent consideration of their individual criminal responsibility.

    Send an appeal to Egyptian officials via Amnesty International


    Further reading

    Read our letter to Egypt's interim president Adly Mahmoud Mansour (PDF)

    Read our letter to Egypt's minister of defence General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (PDF)

    Read our letter to Egypt's public prosecutor Hesham Mohamed Zaki Barakat (PDF)

  • Sudan

    Death penalty for pregnant doctor in Sudan

    The BMA wrote to the Sudanese president expressing its 'profound abhorrence' at the death sentence passed on Dr Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, and called for her immediate and unconditional release.

    Dr Ibrahim, who was eight months pregnant at the time of sentencing, was handed the death penalty for the sole reason that she converted to Christianity and refused to make a public recantation of her faith. The BMA understands that she is also to be flogged because she is married to a Christian.

    In her letter to President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, BMA senior director Professor Vivienne Nathanson branded such sentences as 'fundamental violations of international human rights'.

    BMA chair Dr Mark Porter has written to David Cameron asking him to "use all avenues at [his] disposal to put pressure on the Sudanese authorities to overturn this grotesque sentence".


    Further reading

    Read BMA senior director Vivienne Nathanson's letter to the Sudanese president

    Read BMA chair Mark Porter's letter to David Cameron

    Find out more and email the Sudanese government on the Amnesty UK website

  • Syria

    Doctors' deaths in Syrian custody

    The BMA remains deeply concerned by the Syrian government's continued flouting of international human rights standards, including rights to a fair trial, and its complete disregard for medical neutrality.


    Dr Abbas Khan

    The BMA has written to the Syrian authorities expressing its profound sadness and deep concern over the death of British national Dr Abbas Khan in Syrian custody.

    Dr Khan, an orthopaedic surgeon, had been imprisoned for 13 months after being, as the BMA understands, unlawfully arrested for peacefully attempting to provide medical treatment to injured civilians during the conflict in Syria.

    The BMA has also expressed extreme alarm at reports that Dr Khan had been tortured in prison.

    Read the BMA's letter to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad

    Read the BMA's letter to Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja'afari

    Read the BMA's news coverage of Dr Khan's death


    Dr Osama Baroudi

    The BMA has written to the Syrian authorities expressing its deep concern at the death in custody of Dr Osama Baroudi.

    Dr Baroudi, who suffered from a variety of chronic health conditions, had been held at several detention centres following his arrest in February 2012 for his involvement in co-ordinating efforts to provide medical relief to people injured during the Syrian uprising.

    According to Amnesty International, there is plausible evidence to suggest that Dr Baroudi and another doctor, Mahmoud al Refaal, were repeatedly tortured by the Syrian Intelligence Authorities in Damascus.

    Read the BMA's letter to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad

    Read the BMA's letter to Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja'afari  

    Read the BMA's news coverage of Dr Baroudi's death

  • US

    Medical involvement in force-feeding at Guantánamo

    The BMA Chair has written to President Obama and US Secretary of Defense Hagel, urging them to suspend immediately medical involvement in force-feeding at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and to institute an urgent inquiry into how the situation developed. 

    We have also written to the pharmaceutical companies that are reportedly supplying the US military with the nutritional products used in the force-feeding, asking them to disassociate themselves and their products from the practice.

    In April 2013, the US Department of Defense reportedly sent 40 additional military medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, to the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base to carry out the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike. By the end of June, up to 104 of the remaining 166 individuals held in US military detention at Guantánamo were refusing food.

    The protest against conditions at the base, and the fate of those being held there – including those cleared for transfer or release – began in February. In June it was reported that as many as 44 of the hunger strikers were being force-fed by military medical teams.

    The force-feeding of a mentally competent adult hunger striker by medical staff is a gross violation of internationally accepted ethical standards, as articulated by the World Medical Association (WMA) declarations of Malta and Tokyo.

    The US authorities' response to the hunger strike has sparked outrage among the international medical community. Adding UK doctors' voices to these calls, the 2013 ARM passed a resolution condemning the participation of doctors and nurses in force-feeding, calling on governments worldwide to ensure that all prisoners have access to confidential, independent medical treatment and supporting any clinician who challenges cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.


    Further reading

    Read our letters to reported suppliers and a response from Nestlé, August 2013

    Read our letter to the US President and Secretary of Defense, June 2013

    Read our letter to the Guardian about the Guantánamo case, June 2013

    Read a BMJ editorial on force-feeding at Guantánamo Bay, July 2013

    See the WMA declarations of Malta and Tokyo 

  • Vietnam

    Vietnam Health Ministry sources drugs for lethal injections

    The BMA has written to the Vietnam Minister of Health after the country formally reintroduced the death penalty by lethal injection in June 2013. More than 530 people were reportedly under sentence of death in January, with 117 facing imminent execution at the time that lethal injections were reintroduced.

    No executions had been carried out in Vietnam since January 2012 following a shortage of lethal injection drugs, although the courts have continued to sentence people to death.

    The shortage followed changes made in 2011 to EU regulations on trade in equipment and substances that can be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which restricted the export of barbiturate anaesthetic agents.

    The Vietnam government researched and sourced replacement drugs and the law was changed in May 2013 to allow drugs manufactured domestically to be used in executions.

    Vietnam uses the controversial three-drug protocol in executions, which risks excruciating pain for the prisoner if insufficient anaesthetic is administered. As the new Vietnamese law does not specify the particular drugs that are to be used, and the choice of drugs, their quality and constitution is unknown, there is a greater risk of this happening.

    The BMA’s letter, co-signed by the Danish Medical Association and German Medical Association, called on the Vietnamese health minister, who is a medical doctor, to voice concerns about the three-drug protocol with her government colleagues and to ensure that the Ministry of Health ceases its involvement, as well as the involvement of all medical personnel, in executions.

    Read our letter to the Vietnam Health Minister, July 2013 (PDF)