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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Israeli President of World Medical Association Supports Torture

700 Doctors call for Dr Blachar, head of the Israeli Medical Association, to quit as President of World Medical Association

Blachar is like the 3 wise monkeys – he neither sees, hears nor speaks of torture in Israel.

According to his letter (below) to the British Medical Association torture ‘does not exist” in Israel. According to the Israeli human rights organisation, Btselem
‘The Israeli security forces regularly abuse and torture Palestinian detainees, despite a High Court of Justice ruling from 1999 limiting the use of force in investigations’

The position of Dr Blachar should be seen in context. Israel is the only country in the world to support the use of torture.

What is equally laughable is Blachar’s claim that
‘IDF soldiers do the best they can to uphold human rights under very difficult conditions of constant terror attacks (including numerous "near attacks") on Israeli civilians.’

Perhaps Blachar might care to comment on the video of the arrest of Israeli human rights activist Ezra Nawi and explain whether or not this is an example of ‘upholding human rights’. Dr Blachar is not the first doctor to justify torture (because when you strip his responses of their verbiage that is what it amounts to). There were plenty of Nazi doctors who likewise were happy to lend a hand.

Blachar Letter to British Medical Journal
Medical ethics, the Israeli Medical Association, and the state of the World Medical Association IMA president's response to open letter to the BMA

EDITOR—On reading Summerfield's recent open letter I was astounded by the lengths to which he will go in besmirching Israel and the Israel Medical Association (IMA).1

Summerfield begins by discussing a "collusion of doctors with torture" that does not exist and about which he has yet to make more than a blanket accusation. I repeat, for the hundredth time, that the IMA and I as its president oppose torture in any form.

As to Summerfield's accusations regarding medical neutrality: rather than showing "blatant and systematic disregard," IDF soldiers do the best they can to uphold human rights under very difficult conditions of constant terror attacks (including numerous "near attacks") on Israeli civilians. None the less, when specific incidents are brought to our attention regarding apparent violations of neutrality or medical ethics, the IMA tries to clarify the incident with the appropriate party, be it the army, hospital directors, . . .

Yoram Blachar, president

700 Doctors call for head of World Medical Association to quit as "matter of priority" Zosia Kmietowicz

More than 700 doctors from around the world have called for the Israeli president of the World Medical Association to step down, calling him "unfit for office" and claiming that he has turned a blind eye to the "institutionalised involvement of doctors" in torture in Israel.

In a letter they say that the appointment of Yoram Blachar, president of the Israeli Medical Association since 1995, as president of the World Medical Association last November is "a matter of grave concern." The signatories, who include professors and doctors from 43 countries, say that the appointment "makes a mockery of the principles on which the WMA was founded in 1947, which was a response to egregious abuses by Germany and Japan in World War Two."

The letter, addressed to Edward Hill, chairman of the World Medical Association’s council, and to the council body, was sent by the lead signatory, Alan Meyers, assistant professor of paediatrics at Boston University, on 21 May. It lists numerous reports that have highlighted the use of torture by doctors in Israel and occasions when the Israeli Medical Association has failed to respond to the charges. Professor Meyers had not received a response by the time the BMJ went to press on 23 June.

In 1996 a report from Amnesty International concluded that Israeli doctors working with security services "formed part of a system in which detainees are tortured, ill treated, and humiliated in ways that place prison medical practice in conflict with medical ethics." At the time Dr Blachar "took no action," says the letter. It adds that Dr Blachar had justified, in a letter to the Lancet in 1997, the use in Israel of "moderate physical pressure" (Lancet 1997;350:1247, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(97)26043-5).

However, a World Medical Association spokesman said that this statement was not Dr Blachar’s opinion but a reference to Israeli guidelines and that it has been widely misquoted. The spokesman said, "Dr Blachar did not then endorse the use of torture and has not done so since. Indeed he has repeatedly supported WMA policy statements and documents that condemn all use of torture, whether by physicians or others."

In correspondence in the BMJ Dr Blachar has several times denounced the use of torture by Israeli doctors. In 2003 he wrote, "I repeat, for the hundredth time, that the IMA [Israeli Medical Association] and I as its president oppose torture in any form" (BMJ 2003;327:1107, doi:10.1136/bmj.327.7423.1107).

Professor Meyers said that "moderate physical pressure" is how the Israeli government described its practice regarding Palestinian prisoners in its custody until September 1999, when the Israeli Supreme Court declared all forms of physical coercion to be illegal. "However, that has apparently not signalled an end to the abuse of prisoners," he said.

In 2007 a report by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem into the interrogation methods used against 73 detainees claimed that the Israeli security forces "routinely included mental and physical ill treatment," Professor Meyers said.

He said, "The main aspects of the interrogation regime were severance of the detainee from the outside world, use of incarceration conditions as a means of psychological pressure and to physically weaken the detainee, binding the detainee in a painful position, degradation, and threats."

Professor Meyers added: "Some advocates of such treatment maintain that these interrogation methods are not torture and therefore acceptable. While there is open debate of this question now in the US media, the involvement of physicians in such practices is another matter.

"In its Declaration of Tokyo, the World Medical Association states: ‘For the purpose of this Declaration, torture is defined as the deliberate, systematic or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons acting alone or on the orders of any authority, to force another person to yield information, to make a confession, or for any other reason.’ That any physician could provide assistance to the perpetrators of the kinds of abuse and maltreatment that have been documented to occur in Israeli prisons, in US detention facilities, or anywhere else in the world is an abomination that should not be tolerated by the medical community.
"Any physician who wilfully uses his or her professional skills to inflict suffering should be barred from medical practice by our profession, regardless of their criminal culpability. To do otherwise would be to threaten the trust placed in us by people the world over."

The BMA said, "On the basis of imperfect and contested information, although Dr Blachar’s position as joint president of the World Medical Association and the Israeli Medical Association is a difficult one, in our view he has made authoritative statements, as president of both organisations, calling on the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and any doctors operating under the IDF’s remit to respect international ethical standards."

Dr Blachar did not respond to a request from the BMJ for a response to the letter.

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