UN proposal seeks hospitals war protection

A proposed UN resolution that supporters hope will be adopted next week demands that all parties to conflicts protect medical personnel, hospitals and medical facilities against violence and attacks – and face justice if they don’t.

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The draft resolution circulated on Friday expresses deep concern that the number of attacks is increasing despite obligations under international law that combatants protect medical staff and facilities as well as the sick and wounded.

New Zealand’s UN ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, a co-author of the resolution, said the bombing of an important hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo that killed more than 50 people on Wednesday including patients and staff “sadly demonstrates why the resolution is so timely”.

New Zealand’s UN Mission said the Security Council will vote on the resolution on Tuesday and members will be briefed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the presidents of Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The resolution – also drafted by elected Security Council members Spain, Egypt, Japan and Uruguay – would strongly condemn all violence, attacks and threats against the wounded and sick, medical personnel and medical facilities.

It reminds all governments and fighters that under international law any intentional attack against hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected is a war crime, and so are attacks intentionally directed against buildings, vehicles and personnel using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions including a red cross.

It strongly condemns “the prevailing impunity” for attacks and abuses against medical staff and facilities and strongly urges governments to conduct independent investigations of all violations.