700 doctors demand the removal of WMA president for involvement in torture

700 doctors from 43 countries sent a letter of protest to the Word Medical Association (WMA), which is considered the WMA’s governing body, demanding the removal of the newly appointed president, an Israeli doctor, for ignoring the participation of medical staff in the torture of Palestinian prisoners, the Guardian reported.

The Israeli doctor, Yoram Blachar, has been the head of the Israeli Medical Association since 1995, and became the head of the WMA of November of last year. 

The physicians, who signed the protest letter, are senior professors and physicians from England, Europe and the United States. 

They stated that Blachar had failed to respond to charges that a number of Israeli doctors are involved in the torture of Palestinian detainees during interrogation in Israeli prisons.   

In 1996, the Amnesty International reported that doctors, working with the Israeli security services, are taking part in torturing Palestinian detainees, mistreating and humiliating them in a manner that violates medical ethics. 

Pediatrician Alan Meyers, from Boston University School of Medicine, in the United States, said that the presidency of Blachar to the WMA mocks the principles of the association which was founded in 1947.

A 1975 declaration in Japan states all Physicians in all situations should not participate of help in torture or any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures, including in armed conflicts and civil unrest. 

In its annual meeting two years ago, the institution decided that all doctors are obliged to document cases of torture they are aware of, and that the lack of documenting such cases would be considered tolerance to torture, and lack of assistance to the victims. 

 The Guardian said that Blachar sent an email to it promising to respond to the allegations, and described the news as baseless imaginary allegations. 

 In 1997, Blachar sent a letter to the Lancet medical Journal defending the participation of physicians in torturing Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. 

 In his letter, Blachar claimed that ‘moderate physical pressure’, similar to the torture sanctioned by the Bush Administration against Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and other CIA black sites in several countries, ‘does not violate the international law’. 

This so-called ‘moderate’ torture used by the CIA includes beating the detainees, depriving them from sleeping, isolating them, subjecting them to extreme hot and cold, humiliating them in addition to various illegal methods.

 Meyers, who is also Jewish and well known for his stances for human rights in Israel since many years, stated that physicians who are involved in torture should not be allowed to practice medicine, and should be held accountable for their participation in torture.

In June 26 of 2008, the Israeli Physicians For Human Rights published a report accusing Israeli doctors of ignoring the human rights of the Palestinian detainees.

 It is worth mentioning that dozens of Palestinian detainees died due to torture, dozens more died due to medical negligence, while hundreds of detainees are currently in urgent need for medical care, including cancer patients, and detainees who suffer chronic illnesses and disabilities, but are not receiving the needed medical treatment.

Saed Bannoura – IMEMC