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BMA appalled at death of UK surgeon in Syrian jail

The BMA has expressed deep concern over the death of a doctor in a Syrian jail, shortly before his expected release.

Abbas KhanLondon orthopaedic surgeon Abbas Khan (pictured right) died just days before his expected release from jail after being incarcerated by the Syrian authorities for 13 months.

The British doctor, who worked at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, was arrested after attempting to provide medical treatment and assistance to injured civilians during the conflict in Syria.

BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson called reports of his torture and abuse while in detention ‘abhorrent’ and called for an investigation into the circumstances of Dr Khan’s death.


Flouting human rights

In a letter to the Syrian president, she says: ‘We are seriously concerned by the Syrian government's continued flouting of international human rights, including the right to a fair trial and its disrespect for the principle of medical neutrality.

‘Dr Khan put his life on the line to help civilians and paid the ultimate price for doing so. Any misconduct by the Syrian authorities must be uncovered and wholly condemned. In times of civil war or profound civil unrest, it is essential that all parties to the conflict must remain vigilant in the protection of fundamental rights, including access to medical care without discrimination.’

osamaDr Khan’s death comes just months after that of Osama Baroudi (pictured right), who was captured in 2012 in Syria for being involved in coordinating efforts to provide medical relief to people injured during the Syrian uprising.

A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said the Syrian authorities had confirmed through diplomatic channels that Dr Khan had died. The spokesperson said: ‘Responsibility for Dr Khan’s death lies with them and we will be pressing for answers about what happened.'

He added: ‘In November [the] minister [Hugh] Robertson wrote, making clear our concerns about [Dr Khan’s] welfare and treatment, stressing that the regime’s failure to provide any information that would indicate Dr Khan’s continued detention is legitimate meant his position should be reviewed immediately. These requests have consistently been ignored.’

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The story so far

BMA demands investigation into doctor's death in custody