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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:

Ban on Psychologists’ Participation in Interrogations Passes (August 7, 2015)

PHR welcomed a decision by the American Psychological Association to ban psychologists from participating in national security interrogations and advising on their confinement conditions, and to withdraw their presence from Guantánamo and other sites operating illegally.

PHR Urges Ban on Psychologists’ Participation in Interrogations (August 5, 2015)

The American Psychological Association (APA) should prohibit psychologists’ involvement in interrogations and other activities inconsistent with the profession’s “do no harm” ethic, Physicians for Human Rights said this week during the APA’s annual meeting in Toronto.

U.S. Justice Department Must Investigate American Psychological Association’s Role in U.S. Torture Program (July 10, 2015)

PHR called for a federal criminal probe into the American Psychological Association’s (APA) role in the U.S. torture program following the release of a damning new report that confirms the APA colluded with the Bush administration to enable psychologists to design, implement, and defend a program of torture.

Worst Month Yet for Attacks on Hospitals in Syrian Conflict (June 18, 2015)

Attacks on health care facilities in Syria reached the highest numbers yet in a single month since the start of the conflict in March 2011. In May alone, PHR documented 15 attacks on 14 medical facilities, including seven that had been attacked previously.

More Medical Neutrality News »

American Psychological Association’s First Step Toward Accountability (August 10, 2015)

When the American Psychological Association (APA) Council of Representatives voted Friday morning to rescind its policy allowing psychologists to participate in the interrogation of security detainees, it was a tectonic shift.

The Brutal Toll of Psychologists' Role in Torture (August 6, 2015)

While there is no question that the APA has much work to do to repair the damage to its integrity and to restore people's faith in the discipline of psychology, it is worth remembering that myriad individuals suffered directly as a result of this collusion. Over the last 13 years, more than 750 detainees have spent time in a rights-free zone that is the detention center at Guantánamo Bay.

No Strangers to War (July 15, 2015)

The only practical solution to ending the desperation in Yemen is an immediate end to the Saudi-led bombardment and blockade of the country.

In Syria, Drying Out the Sea to Kill the Fish (June 10, 2015)

On March 28, 2015, Jabhat al-Nusra and allied opposition groups wrested Idlib city from government control in Syria. The following day, the Syrian air force attacked the city’s Red Crescent-run hospital with rockets, causing significant damage and forcing the hospital to close.

More Medical Neutrality Posts »

Preliminary Statement on the Hoffman Report (August 2015)

PHR’s statement outlines key findings of the Hoffman report and provides recommendations for accountability, policy reform, and justice.

Letter to APA Leadership on Prohibiting Psychologists' Participation in Interrogations (July 2015)

PHR's executive director sent a letter to leaders of the American Psychological Association supporting recommendations on prohibiting psychologists’ participation in interrogations.

Navy Nurse Press Call (May 2015)

Physicians for Human Rights commends the U.S. Navy’s decision not to discharge the nurse who refused to participate in the force-feeding of Guantánamo detainees.

Open Letter to the Government of Bahrain (March 2015)

Physicians for Human Rights, partner organizations, and human rights activists call on the government on Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience in the country in the aftermath of the 2011 popular uprising.

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 »