The victims of civil war doctors are trying to help. Manu Brabo/AP

We don’t know the exact details of why Abbas Khan, the British surgeon who died while in custody, was arrested last November at a regime checkpoint in Syria and imprisoned and tortured, or the manner of his death. We might never know the truth.

However, his death comes against the backdrop of the systematic and sustained war on doctors who serve civilians in Syrian opposition-held areas.

Doing one’s job – let alone responding to the humanitarian imperative – is effectively criminalised in Syria through an anti-terrorism law introduced in July last year. And it contravenes the international laws of war designed to protect doctors.

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