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
PHR-Led Bill to Protect Health Workers Introduced (May 16, 2013)
PHR today helped introduce a bill that would protect health workers globally from increasing attacks during times of war and unrest, and ensure they can continue to provide services without fear of violence, retribution, or arrest.
Independent Investigation and Forensic Protocols Are Key to Assessing Chemical Weapons Use (April 26, 2013)
Amid accumulating signs that chemical weapons may have been used recently in Syria, PHR repeats its call for a thorough independent investigation of such allegations to be conducted immediately that follows forensic protocols for handling evidence.
PHR welcomes a Bahrain appeals court’s decision today to reverse the convictions of 21 health professionals arrested in connection with Arab spring pro-democracy protests in 2011.
UK: Bahrain our ally; despite crackdown (PressTV.com, February 22, 2013)
Britain has voiced support for the Bahraini regime as London’s ally despite Manama’s continued brutal crackdown on peaceful protests. ... This comes as Physicians for Human Rights has also slammed the Bahraini regime saying doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they had "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protests.
The cancellation of an international medical ethics conference that had been scheduled for April 10-12 in Bahrain is another sign that the country’s rulers continue a systematic pattern of politicizing medical affairs.
Stained Glass Transparency: Bahrain’s Latest Obfuscation of International Human Rights Accountability (April 25, 2013)
Bahrain has again indefinitely postponed a visit by the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, the latest in a series of attempts to deter human rights observers from scrutinizing the kingdom’s dismal human records record. The government told the rapporteur, Juan Méndez, that his visit could be “immensely damaging” to the Bahrain National Dialogue, an initiative that should welcome such a visit if it truly seeks to promote reform.
Capitol Hill Briefing Spotlights Bahrain’s Lack of Progress in Bolstering Human Rights (November 15, 2012)
Nearly one year after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released a report recommending legal and policy changes to improve human rights in that country, the kingdom’s regime has failed to live up to its pledge to implement those changes, according to panelists at a Congressional briefing Wednesday.
Standing in Solidarity with Medical Colleagues and the People of South Kivu (October 31, 2012)
Today, we at Physicians for Human Rights stand in solidarity with our medical colleagues and the people of South Kivu in the aftermath of the chilling and brazen attack against Dr. Denis Mukwege and his household last Thursday.
PHR Endorses Statement of International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict on the Attack Against Dr. Denis Mukwege (October 2012)
Physicians for Human Rights, a founding Advisory Committee member of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, strongly endorses the statement the Campaign released today following the violent attack last week on our esteemed colleague Dr. Denis Mukwege in Bukavu, DRC.
Two Senators and 22 Representatives jointly signed a letter to the King of Bahrain today, calling on him to pardon eight medical professionals convicted for providing medical care to injured protesters.
US Should Support Fundamental Freedoms in Bahrain and Sign UN Human Rights Council Statement (June 2012)
The US Administration should support fundamental freedoms in Bahrain and join 27 member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in signing a principled statement regarding the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain.
Today the State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. PHR applauds Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Posner, and the staff of the State Department for their tireless work in producing these reports, which catalog a number of human rights violations in nearly 200 countries during 2011.
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 »
Richard Sollom leads human rights investigations to document and expose grave emergency and emerging human rights situations globally. He oversees the design and safe and ethical conduct of PHR’s research work related to the investigation and documentation of war crimes and mass atrocities. Sollom also oversees research, investigations and advocacy on violations of medical neutrality and the systematic discrimination in the delivery or access to health care. Read More »