Horrifying Trend: Medics Brutally Attacked in Middle East Protests

March 17, 2011

Medics are under assault in the Middle East and North Africa (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Medics attacked. Ambulance drivers beaten. Emergency responders ordered: “Let them die.”

Amnesty International has received several disturbing reports of targeted attacks and other human rights abuses against medical professionals in the Middle East and North Africa – while they were caring for victims of political violence and picking up the dead.

In Libya, pro-Gaddafi forces deliberately shot and injured two medics trying to retrieve the corpse of a man killed days earlier. The medics were in full uniforms and arrived in clearly marked Red Crescent ambulances.

Security forces in Yemen refused to allow residents to take the injured to the hospital after the security forces themselves had fired on anti-government protestors and bystanders.

One doctor told Amnesty:

“I went to the al-Mu’alla area. I showed [the security forces] my ID, and told them I was a doctor and wanted to help the injured who were bleeding in the streets. But security forces said to me: ‘Let them die!’ I had to go back.”

More than a dozen ambulance staff in Bahrain were beaten, insulted and threatened by riot police. Dr. Sadeq al-‘Ekri was surrounded by police, forced onto a bus, stripped and beaten with sticks all over his body. He was also threatened with sexual abuse. He suffered a broken nose, injured left eye and bruises on his chest and abdomen.

Dr. al-‘Ekri said of his horrifying experience,

“The body damage can be repaired but the psychological damage can’t. I couldn’t believe that this would happen in Bahrain.”

These attacks demonstrate a reckless disregard for human life and a grave violation under international law and standards. They cannot go unchallenged.  All those responsible for carrying out attacks on civilians and medical workers must know that they will be held to account according to international law.