Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj Founded Mental Health Program
December 19, 2013

Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj, a psychiatrist and prominent human rights activist, died on December 17, 2013, after a long illness.

Dr. al-Sarraj founded the Gaza Community Mental Health Program in 1990. The organization provides mental health services to children, women, and survivors of torture, and advocates for the rights of Palestinian detainees. It operates Gaza’s only occupational therapy center for people with severe mental illnesses, and the program provides counselling for Gaza residents traumatized by violence from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Palestinian factional fighting.  

Over the years, Dr. al-Sarraj generously shared his expert knowledge of Palestinian human rights issues with Human Rights Watch researchers. He was one of the founders of the Palestinian human rights ombudsman, the Independent Commission for Human Rights, in 1993, and later was its commissioner. 

He was repeatedly detained by Palestinian Authority security services in 1996 after criticizing their policies. In 2008, an Israeli airstrike against a Palestinian police station damaged the offices of the Mental Health Program.

Dr. al-Sarraj received many honors for his work in both psychiatry and human rights, including the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders.

Human Rights Watch expresses its condolences to his family and friends and mourns his loss.