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Israeli Medical Association Severs Ties with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Over Torture Allegations

The Alternative Information Center (AIC)

dr._yoram_blachar.jpg

Dr. Yoram Blachar, President of the IMA and the World Medical Association (WMA), expressed his support for the use of "moderate physical pressure" during interrogations (a euphemism for torture), in a letter to The Lancet.



August 10, 2009

The recent decision of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) President Ruchama Marton to sign a petition against the torture of prisoners by Israel has led the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) to sever ties with the organization, Haaretz reports.

The petition was in reaction to the condoning of torture by Dr. Yoram Blachar, President of the IMA and the World Medical Association (WMA), and called for his removal as President. According to PHR, Marton signed the petition in a personal capacity, and the organization should therefore not be punished as a whole.

The petition has 725 signatories, and was initiated by a British doctor who insists that Blachar has for the last decade condoned and allowed the use of torture on prisoners. Electronic Intifada reports that Blachar was also in favor of using "moderate physical pressure" during interrogations, a position he expressed in a letter to The Lancet. In response to the accusation, IMA launched a counter-petition and sent a letter to PHR stating that "The damage caused by [your] organization is great. We have pleaded with the organization's administration to refrain from using the international arena to besmirch and sling mud at Israel's doctors, but to no avail," according to Haaretz.  

Over 500 Israeli physicians are members of PHR, many of whom also belong to the IMA, the body charged with maintaining the ethical code of conduct among doctors. One central concern about the severed relationship between the two organizations is that because doctors in both networks share records and make referrals to one another, patient care will suffer. This lapse in service is especially a risk for refugees and migrant workers who rely upon IMA and PHR clinics for medical treatment difficult to access elsewhere.

This June, PHR and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) jointly published a report that documents the use of shackling by the Israeli military and the General Security Services (GSS) on Palestinian detainees. It highlights the shackling of prisoners during medical procedures, a practice which is a breach of the Tokyo Declaration, a document that outlines ethical standards for medical treatment.

PHR has also recently published the names of 12 doctors who took part in torturing Palestinians. According to Haaretz, while the IMA investigated these claims by conducting interviews with the accused physicians, the results of their investigation revealed that no ethical codes were breached. Yet because of the connection between some members of the IMA and the Israel Prison Service, the investigation may have been less than thorough, according to PHR representatives.

The decision of the IMA to cut ties with PHR is detrimental not only to patients, many of them disadvantaged and from refugee or migrant worker communities, but also to the promotion of transparent investigations of official bodies. The decision of the IMA to reject the claims of PHR rather than publicly investigate Blachar’s support of torture displays an unwillingness to place medical ethics—and respect for human rights—over the political perception and international reputation of the IMA. In effect, this decision undermines the transparency and credibility of the association, while emphasizing the precise need for future investigations of Israeli institutions in the future.



:: Article nr. 56838 sent on 11-aug-2009 00:59 ECT

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Link: www.alternativenews.org/english/2063-israeli-medical-association-severs-ties-wit
   h-physicians-for-human-rights-phr-over-torture-allegations-.html




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