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Center for Public Health and Human Rights

Statement from the Center for Public Health and Human Rights on Chemical Weapons Attacks and Other Atrocities in Syria

For the entirety of seven years of the war in Syria, the forces of President Bashar al-Assad have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against his own people, including bombing of hospitals, arresting, torturing and killing health workers for providing medical care, and in about 200 cases, employing chemical weapons. The most recent of these crimes was the use of chemical weapons in Douma, killing more than 40 people.

The global outrage and demands for accountability demonstrated in response to the monstrous Douma attack is warranted, as chemical weapons have long been outlawed by international treaty. The world should be equally outraged about the systematic targeting of hospitals and health providers in Syria, which have killed thousands of people and severely diminished access to health care for millions. In all cases, moreover, outrage must be transformed into accountability and justice. If the United Nations Security Council remains blocked in referring Syria to the International Criminal Court, alternative means to initiate prosecutions must be found. 

Academic institutions, global health programs and medical institutions and associations should dedicate more resources to address the various ramifications of the Syrian crisis including the impact of the crisis on public health, refugees, resettlement and integration of refugees, mental health, track 2 diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed and post-crisis recovery. 

Equally, governments must not turn their backs on the people who are suffering from these assaults. The United States has accepted only 44 Syrian refugees halfway through this fiscal year, compared to more that 6,500 last year. The U.S. and other countries must welcome the survivors of this terrible war, and help alleviate their suffering.

Finally, we express our solidarity with the courageous doctors, nurses, medics, and other health workers who continue to serve the needs of people wounded in the war or suffering from disease or chronic conditions, while themselves under attack. They deserve our support.