Doctors in Libya are still under attack – even though the Libyan conflict officially ended last August. In December 2011, Qaddafi loyalists attacked the Director of Tripoli’s Central Hospital, holding him at gunpoint and forcibly detaining him and doctors went on strike after another doctor was assaulted on hospital property.
These attacks constitute egregious violations of medical neutrality,which prohibits attacks on medical professionals, facilities, and patients,protects patients’ right to access healthcare, and guards health professionals’right to treat any individual in need of medical assistance, regardless of background or identity. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documented violations of medical neutrality in Libya during the conflict in 2011 – violations that represent a disturbing trend of attacks on the medical profession amidst armed conflict and civil unrest.
Attacks on the medical profession, if left to continue unabated,will erode patients’ access to necessary care and amplify damage against the civilian population. Transitional government authorities must abide by their international treaty obligations to ensure security for both patients and doctors within the neutral space of health care facilities. Doctors must be able to provide care to all patients regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. Without this unbiased care and access to medical treatment, all Libyans will continue to suffer.