World Health Organization Adopts Resolution Requiring Documentation of Violations of Medical Neutrality

Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a resolution on Friday that requires the body to document violations of medical neutrality.

Such violations include the deliberate blocking of access to health services, attacks on health care facilities, intimidation of medical professionals, and other attacks that threaten the ability of the medical community to provide impartial care to those in need.

PHR and other human rights organizations have investigated violations of medical neutrality in countries including Bahrain, Libya, and Syria, but until now there has been no systematic international effort to collect data about violations on an international level. The resolution symbolizes growing concern from the international community about attacks on health care in conflict and civil unrest. PHR joined 16 other organizations in affirming its support for the resolution.

The adoption of the resolution is a definitive step forward for the protection of medical neutrality.

But there is more that the international community and individual states can do in order to further promote the neutrality of medical professionals and facilities during times of violence. Members of the UN Human Rights Council, for example, should establish a Special Rapporteur on medical neutrality to build upon international data collection on attacks on health care and streamline international policies on this issue. Individual states should also fully commit to the need to protect medical neutrality on their own territory and assist with international efforts to collect data on abuses.

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