World Medical Association appeals for Medical Neutrality

(12.08.2010) The WMA has condemned the recent killing of medical personnel in Afghanistan and has reiterated its policy that medical neutrality must be upheld during times of conflict.

In a statement following the shooting of 10 members of an International Assistance Mission medical team in Badakhshan province last week, the WMA said there was an obligation on all parties in conflict situations to abide by the rules of international medical ethics as well as the provisions of international humanitarian law asexpressed in the Geneva Conventions.

Dr. Edward Hill, Chair of the WMA, said that last week’s tragic killings of eight medics and their two interpreters reinforced the Association’s view expressed in its Resolution on the Preservation of International Standards of Medical Neutrality and the WMA Regulations in Times of Armed Conflict that medical personnel and medical facilities must not be targeted in conflict situations.

‘Only last year the WMA forcefully expressed its view that Governments, armed forces and others in positions of power should comply with the Geneva Conventions to ensure that physicians and other health care professionals can provide care to everyone in need in situations of armed conflict. Physicians must be granted access to patients, medical facilities and equipment and the protection needed to carry out their professional activities freely.

‘It is a tragedy that these doctors were killed while trying to provide medical care to desperate people in need of help. Physicians must always be given free access to patients, to medical facilities and equipment as well as the protection needed to carry out their professional activities.’