The Principle of Medical Neutrality
A new 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:
- Under the Gun: Ongoing Assaults on Bahrain’s Health System
- Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients
- Hospital Staff Upholds International Medical Ethics During Unrest in Bangkok
- Medicine Under Siege in the Former Yugoslavia
- Human Rights Crisis in Kashmir — A Pattern of Impunity
- Bloody May: Excessive Use of Lethal Force in Bangkok — The Events of May 17-20, 1992
- The Health-care Situation in Iraqi-Occupied Kuwait
- Panama 1987: Health Consequences of Police and Military Actions
- El Salvador: Health Care Under Siege
U.S. Official Misses Opportunity to Address Human Rights Issues in Bahrain (December 9, 2013)
PHR today expressed concern that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel failed to publicly prioritize human rights in Bahrain during a major event in the kingdom.
Turkish Government Considering Criminalizing Emergency Care (November 26, 2013)
In its latest attempt to harass medical professionals and the injured demonstrators they treat, the government of Turkey is considering a health bill that would criminalize certain aspects of emergency medical care and force doctors to compromise their professional duty to treat those in need.
PHR Calls for Unfettered Access for Humanitarian Assistance in Syria (November 26, 2013)
PHR is calling on the U.S. government to immediately enter into high-level negotiations with the Russian government to ensure unfettered access in Syria for the International Committee of the Red Cross and other U.N. and humanitarian organizations that urgently need to provide vital services and supplies.
PHR Reiterates Call to Release Imprisoned Medics in Bahrain and Stop Shipment of Tear Gas (November 22, 2013)
PHR today reaffirmed its call to the Bahraini government to immediately release medical professionals who have been wrongfully prisoned and stop the ongoing targeting of the medical community.
Recent Kidnappings Add Further Obstacles to Eradicating Polio in Pakistan (November 27, 2013)
PHR has long-condemned the use of health care workers for intelligence work, as it destroys the trust necessary for effective doctor-patient relationships and leaves patients suspicious of doctors’ medical advice. Kidnappings that took place in Pakistan recently are just one example among many of distrust of health care workers, which has served to increase the number of polio cases in the country.
Discovering Inspiration in Tragedy (November 18, 2013)
“I’m upset – feeling guilty for leaving colleagues working in extreme circumstances in Syria. But I will document the violations. That is my contribution.” - Syrian refugee doctor
Polio and Starvation - Latest Indicators of Humanitarian Crisis in Syria (November 8, 2013)
The health crisis in Syria has reached alarming proportions, threatening not only the Syrian population, but also its neighbors, and requires an immediate international response.
Why You Should Join This International Campaign (October 25, 2013)
This month marks the anniversary of a terrible event: the October 2012 attempt on Dr. Denis Mukwege's life at his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
A Message from Behind Bars in Bahrain (November 2013)
Three medics currently jailed in Bahrain, Ibrahim Aldemestani, Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, and Hassan Salman Al-Maatouq, wrote this letter calling on the world to recognize their unjust imprisonment for upholding principles of medical neutrality.
Letter to Turkish Minister of Health on Draft Health Law (November 2013)
PHR and leading medical organizations sent a letter to the Turkish Minister of Heath expressing concern about a draft health law being considered by the Turkish parliament.
Introduction to Medical Neutrality (November 2013)
This fact sheet provides an overview of medical neutrality, the ethics and laws behind it, and PHR’s reporting on when it’s violated.
Medical Neutrality and the Use of Weaponized Tear Gas in Bahrain (November 2013)
The Bahraini government’s response to the early 2011 pro-democracy protests was brutal, systematic, and violent. This fact sheet provides an overview of Bahrain’s violations of medical neutrality and its weaponized use of tear gas.
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 »