Violence against Health Care: The Problem and the Law


Health workers and patients face extraordinary risks in today’s armed conflicts. Part I of the International Review of the Red Cross’s thematic issue on violence against health care focuses on patterns of attacks, based on results from data collection and field studies. The issue also outlines the legal and ethical frameworks that apply to the provision of health care.

Articles in this issue include:

In A human rights approach to health care in conflict, Katherine Footer and Leonard Rubenstein affirm the importance of human rights for the protection of health care in situations to which international humanitarian law does not apply, or as a complement to it. “In times of armed conflict, international humanitarian law (IHL) provides robust protection to health care services, but it also contains gaps” they write. “Moreover, IHL does not cover situations where an armed conflict does not exist.” They point to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 14 (on Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) as a “framework from which states’ obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to health across all conflict settings can be further developed.”

Footer is a research associate and Rubenstein is director of the Program on Human Rights, Health, and Conflict at the Center for Human Rights and Public Health of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is also chair of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition.

Violence against Health Care: Part I: The Problem and the Law is available on the ICRC’s website.