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The Principle of Medical Neutrality

VIDEO

This video from PHR provides a brief introduction to the principle of medical neutrality, its foundation in medical ethics and international law, violations of medical neutrality, and steps that can be taken to protect and promote the principle. >> Watch Now

Modern war often turns civilians into deliberate targets. Armies shell cities, obstruct the flow of food and medical supplies, and use human shields. Militaries also undermine health care and retaliate against the health professionals who treat the sick and wounded. This violation of medical neutrality is a war crime, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions or laws of war.

PHR promotes the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of armed conflict: Warring factions must protect civilians; allow sick and wounded civilians and soldiers both to receive care regardless of their political affiliations; and refrain from interfering with medical facilities, transport, and personnel. This is medical neutrality.

Medical neutrality ensures:

  • the protection of medical personnel, patients, facilities, and transport from attack or interference;
  • unhindered access to medical care and treatment;
  • the humane treatment of all civilians; and
  • nondiscriminatory treatment of the injured and sick.

PHR documents the deliberate targeting of health care systems and personnel, and advocates accountability for violators.

PHR's investigations regarding medical neutrality include these reports:

Turkish Government Must Immediately Allow Access to Health Care (February 3, 2016)

PHR today called on the Turkish government to immediately allow access to medical care which has been blocked by its security forces in the southeastern part of the country.

Syria’s Neighbors Must Let Doctors Practice (February 2, 2016)

PHR is calling on world leaders to prioritize Syria’s shattered health system by creating mechanisms for thousands of displaced medical professionals to temporarily practice in neighboring countries. PHR’s call comes in light of this week’s conference of donor governments meeting in London to discuss response to the Syrian crisis.

U.S. Government Must Release Guantánamo Force-Feeding Tapes (January 22, 2016)

PHR denounced the U.S. government’s latest move to block the release of tapes showing force-feeding at Guantánamo, calling it a patent effort to conceal this unlawful and unethical practice from the public.

Israel’s Plan to Force-Feed Hunger-Striking Journalist Violates Medical Ethics and International Law (January 12, 2016)

PHR denounced Israel’s decision to force-feed a Palestinian hunger striker, stating that any health professional participation in such a practice violates the ban on torture and ill-treatment in medical ethics and international law.

More Medical Neutrality News »

Failed Peace Talks Are a Death Sentence for Syrians (January 28, 2016)

Political wrangling in the lead up to Friday's U.N.-brokered peace talks has dramatically lowered expectations. But continued inaction at the diplomatic level, writes Elise Baker of PHR, is a "death sentence" for many Syrians trapped in besieged or remote areas across the country

Protecting Syria's civilians: another discarded New Year's resolution? (January 11, 2016)

It's been just three weeks since the UN Security Council adopted its latest resolution on the conflict in Syria, re-authorizing cross-border delivery routes for humanitarian aid and promising - once again - to take "further measures" if the parties to the conflict do not comply with international humanitarian law.

The Shamefully Unfinished Story of the CIA Torture Program (December 9, 2015)

One year ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee released part of its massive report documenting the brutality and lawlessness of the CIA torture program. Yet 12 months later, those who designed, ordered, and carried out this deliberate and systematic effort to destroy human beings remain – shamefully – unaccountable for their crimes.

Russia Fanning the Flames in Syria (October 30, 2015)

Russia’s entrance into the Syrian conflict has made an already grim situation far worse... the nature of Russia’s military attacks, in step with Bashar al-Assad’s strategies, signals a new level of deterioration in the conflict.

More Medical Neutrality Posts »

Let Syria’s Health Professionals Work (February 2016)

In this paper, PHR provides recommendations to donor governments that would demonstrate their commitment to the health and well-being of the Syrian people, to the principles of mutual recognition of health professional qualifications, and to core commitments by the global community to sustainable development in the region.

Letter to President Obama on the Kunduz Hospital Attack (January 2016)

PHR sent a letter to President Obama expressing grave concern about the increased frequency of attacks on hospitals and medical personnel across the globe, including the devastating October airstrikes by the U.S. military on an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Truth Matters: Accountability for CIA Psychological Torture (December 2015)

One year after the Senate torture report’s partial release, transparency and accountability – let alone redress to victims – remain stalled. The U.S. government must end the cover-up of torture and ill-treatment and honor its obligation to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

Aleppo Abandoned (November 2015)

The Syrian government’s ongoing assault on health care is one of the most egregious the world has ever seen. This report focuses specifically on the state of health care in eastern Aleppo city and tells a story of courage and resilience in the face of tremendous human suffering and loss.

More Medical Neutrality Research »

Featured Report

Under the Gun: Ongoing Assaults on Bahrain’s Health System

In February 2011, the Government of Bahrain began targeting health professionals who treated protesters. In April 2012, PHR's Richard Sollom, Deputy Director, and Holly Atkinson, MD, FACP, past President of PHR's Board and volunteer expert, authored a report showing the devastation on Bahrain's health system that have resulted from the Government of Bahrain’s continued assault on doctors, patients, and the healthcare system. Read More »