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Sudan: Release Doctors from Unlawful Detention, Stop Obstructing Health Care Delivery

The Sudanese government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is detaining doctors and targeting hospitals with tear gas amidst mass protests against the al-Bashir regime. Physicians for Human Rights demands that the Sudanese government release doctors and health care workers being held unlawfully, provide medical care for detainees in need, and allow medical responders and hospitals to function without threat of violence.

PHR has been tracking attacks on doctors and health care facilities in Sudan since the start of protests in December and is in close touch with medical professionals on the ground. Twenty-seven doctors remain imprisoned, almost entirely denied communication with their families, as well as being left untreated for injuries sustained when arrested and for preexisting medical conditions.

Seven hospitals have been directly attacked. Security forces have raided facilities, shot bullets and tear gas into them, and detained doctors, leaving patients suffocating from tear gas, terrified to seek medical care, and without enough health workers to attend to them.

Physicians for Human Rights medical expert Dr. Rohini Haar, said the following in response to the ongoing attacks against Sudanese doctors and health care facilities:

“Detaining doctors and attacking hospitals not only represent egregious violations of international law but also cause significant downstream health impacts for the entire community. The government must release Sudanese physicians who have come together to take a leading role in demanding respect for basic human rights and fulfilling their duty to provide medical care to all. The government’s use of tear gas, live ammunition, and violence – both within hospitals and on the streets – to quell peaceful protests must cease immediately.

“The doctors who have been arbitrarily detained and kept in isolation from other detainees without the ability to contact their lawyers or family members must be released immediately and permitted to continue their life-saving work. The government must stop the illegal targeting of health care facilities, be held accountable for the killing of Dr. Babiker Salama, and allow any detained doctors access to medical care.”

Dr. Salama was shot and killed in January while trying to care for an individual injured during a protest. Among the doctors known to be detained with health conditions are Dr. Alfateh Omer Elsid, who suffers from cancer and is being denied chemotherapy treatment, and Dr. Muaz Faisal, who fell and broke his leg while detained. Dr. Hiba Omar is the only doctor who has been allowed a visit with family; she told her husband that she was pressured to give up names of doctors leading the Central Doctors Committee.

Since 1988, PHR has documented assaults on medical workers, including systematic attacks on doctors in Bahrain, jailing of doctors in Iran, attacks and persecution of medical workers in Turkey, and targeting of medical facilities and health workers in Syria and the former Yugoslavia.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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