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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Five Years of War in Syria: Health Care Under Attack

Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 1:00pm
2261 Rayburn House Office Building


Briefing Series on Syria

Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a briefing on the impact of the Syrian armed conflict on medical personnel and infrastructure, and the consequences for the health of the civilian population and for the fundamental tenets of humanitarian action.

International humanitarian law (IHL), specifically the First and Fourth Geneva Conventions, provides that hospitals, medical units and medical personnel are to be protected, respected, and may not be the object of attack during armed conflict. This obligation applies at all times, even when a medical facility is not being used to accommodate wounded or sick patients, as long as it is used exclusively for medical purposes. Indiscriminant or targeted attacks on hospitals, medical units, and medical personnel functioning in a humanitarian capacity are never admissible.

Yet in Syria, since the start of the conflict in 2011, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has documented 346 attacks on 246 health facilities and the killing of 705 medical personnel. In 2015 alone, more than 90 airstrikes and shelling attacks hit facilities supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), and facilities supported by Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) were attacked 71 times.  A disproportionately large share of the attacks has been attributed to government and allied forces. On top of the injuries, loss of life, and destruction of facilities required to care for populations caught in war, the involvement of government security forces in the targeting of health care is undermining the humanitarian law framework.

For the briefing, representatives of PHR, MSF and SAMS will share their analyses of the situation on the ground in Syria and their recommendations for improving civilian protection and restoring compliance with international humanitarian law.

This briefing will be open to members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public and the media. For any questions, please contact Kimberly Stanton (for Rep. McGovern) at 202-225-3599 or, or Isaac Six (for Rep. Pitts) at 202-225-2411 or

Hosted by:

James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC
Joseph R. Pitts, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC


Opening Remarks:         

  • Rep. James P. McGovern, Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
    Written remarks


  • Dr. Lina Murad, Member, Board of Directors, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)
    Written statement
  • Widney Brown, Director of Programs, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
    Written statement
  • Jason Mills, former Head of Mission, Medicines Sans Frontier (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), Turkey 
    Written statement


114th Congress