UN proposal demands combatants protect hospitals and doctors

AP News
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Posted: Apr 29, 2016 7:22 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A proposed U.N. resolution that supporters hope will be adopted next week demands that all parties to conflicts protect medical workers, hospitals and medical facilities against violence and attacks — and face justice if they don't.

The draft resolution circulated 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 U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, a co-author of the resolution, said Wednesday's bombing of an important hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo that killed more than 50 people including patients and staff "sadly demonstrates why the resolution is so timely."

"We need to shine a light and make clear the international community's utter rejection of such practices," he told The Associated Press on Friday. "Perpetrators of these attacks need to be held to account."

Van Bohemen said the resolution "sends a strong message that this emerging and sickening tactic of modern warfare — attacks on medical workers and hospitals — are breaches of international law and will not be tolerated."

New Zealand's U.N. 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.

The proposed resolution demands that all parties to armed conflicts facilitate "safe and unimpeded passage" for medical workers.

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.

The draft asks the secretary-general to promptly provide the Security Council with recommendations on measures to prevent attacks on medical staff, vehicles and facilities.