December 17, 1996: Killings in Chechen hospital

On December 17, 1996 Chechen terrorists attacked a hospital run by the ICRC in Novye Atagi, Chechnya and killed six expatriate workers.

NOVYE ATAGI, CHECHNYA – How is it possible to justify the slaughter of hospital workers?

The medical oath is well know to all I am fairly certain: primum non nocere (Latin for ‘First, do no harm). Despite its apparent ancient origin and similar phrases dating back to Hippocrates, the actual triumvirate of words may not go back any further to the 18th century.

Regardless of its provenance I think we all agree that this is a good idea and a necessary principle for those in the medical profession to abide by. While doctors and nurses do indeed come across all kinds of challenging health situations they must do what they can to not make matters worse.

I know this looks bad, but I swear I am doing no harm! (Photo: Public Domain)

If there were a maxim for terrorists I am pretty sure it would be primum nocere – ‘make sure you do a lot of harm!’ And at times that harm is directed against those in the medical profession.

On this day in 1996

Chechen terrorists attacked a hospital run by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Novye Atagi, Chechnya and killed six expatriate workers. The victims were from Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway (2) and New Zealand. Two Chechens were told to leave, underscoring the goal to kill foreigners.

The ICRC unreservedly condemns the attack, which struck at the very core of humanitarian action. For the murders were committed within the confines of a hospital that was not only under the protection of the red cross emblem, but whose sole purpose was to provide medical aid to the victims of war.

ICRC statement

Chechens may have legitimate issues against some, notably Russia, but what is gained by killing hospital workers? How can anyone justify taking the lives of those sworn to save them?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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