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02 Mar 2015

The World Medical Association has backed calls for the United Nations to investigate horrific claims that the ISIS terrorist group is harvesting human organs to raise funds.

In a statement issued late last month, the WMA said reports that the violent organisation was removing organs from hostages and dead fighters for sale on the lucrative global black market must be examined, including the possible participation of doctors.

“If these reports are correct, it means there is a horrifying trade in human organs on an almost industrial scale being carried out by these terrorists,” WMA President Dr Xavier Deau said. “The reported involvement of doctors in this activity must be investigated, as well as claims that those doctors who refuse to take part are being executed.”

The possibility that ISIS was trading in human organs first appeared late last year when al-Monitor news website published claims by an Iraqi ear, nose and throat doctor, Siruwan al-Mosuli, that ISIS commanders had hired foreign doctors to run an extensive organ trafficking system from a hospital in the captured city of Mosul, northern Iraq, that is already beginning to generate huge profits.

According to the website’s report, cited by the Daily Mail newspaper, the terror organisation had established a specialist organ-smuggling division whose sole responsibility was to sell human hearts, livers and kidneys on the lucrative international black market. 

“[Al-Mosuli] said that lately he noticed unusual movement within medical facilities in Mosul. Arab and foreign surgeons were hired, but prohibited from mixing with local doctors,” the report's author wrote. “Information then leaked about organ selling.”

The claims gained credence late last month when Iraq’s Ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Alhakim, urged the Security Council to investigate the deaths of 12 doctors in Mosul, Iraq. He said they were killed after refusing to remove organs from bodies.

“Some of the bodies we found are mutilated ... that means some parts are missing,” Mr Alhakim told reporters later, adding that there were openings in the back of the bodies where the kidneys would be located. “This is clearly something bigger than we think.”

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy for Iraq, told CNN the organ theft claim would be investigated.

“We have seen these reports as well,” he said. “However, I do not want to hasten to confirm anything before we study them in greater detail.”

Mr Mladenov said reports that the group “is using a human trafficking as part of its sources of income” have circulated for months.

“I cannot speak to the extent of that issue until we finalize our analysis of the problem, but if one looks at the broader picture, it is very clear that the brutality and the tactics that [ISIS] is using expand by the day.”

Dr Deau said the UN should launch an official investigation into the matter, including any involvement by transplant surgeons in the trade, “as soon as possible”, and warned action would be taken against any practitioners voluntarily taking part.


Adrian Rollins  

Published: 02 Mar 2015