Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2016 
Chapter VI : Medical transports
2355  The protection of medical transports is a logical corollary of, and provides functional support for, the First Convention’s primary objective, which is ‘the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field’. In order to ensure the respect and protection due to the wounded and sick under Article 12 of the First Convention, it is necessary to grant protection to the means of transport used to convey them to a treatment facility. Military medical transports are thus protected on account of the functions they perform.
2356  Article 35 sets out the legal regime applicable to medical transports on land used by the armed forces. The first paragraph of Article 35 deals with the status and protection of military medical transports, stating that they are governed by the same rules as mobile medical units. The second paragraph regulates what happens when these transports fall into enemy hands. The third paragraph stipulates that requisitioned civilian personnel and means of transport are subject to ‘the general rules of international law’.
2357  Often the fastest, and sometimes the only, means of carrying out the evacuation of the wounded and sick is by aircraft, a term which includes helicopters. Rapid evacuation of the wounded and sick is a genuine life-saving measure in modern conflict. Article 36 confers protection on medical aircraft, which are aircraft exclusively employed for the removal of the wounded and sick and the transport of medical personnel and equipment. They must not be attacked and must be respected by all belligerents. Their protection is subject to relatively stringent criteria, spelt out in Article 36.
2358  Many armed forces rely on aircraft to transport the wounded and sick to permanent medical facilities, often situated far from the battlefield. Getting the wounded and sick to these facilities may necessitate extensive flight through the airspace of one or more neutral States. Article 37 tries to reconcile the need to transport the wounded and sick to permanent medical facilities with the rights of neutral States. It grants medical aircraft the right to fly over neutral States’ territory, land on it in case of necessity or use it as a port of call. At the same time, it gives neutral States the right to place conditions or restrictions on the passage or landing of medical aircraft on their territory.
2359  This chapter is complemented by a number of provisions contained in Part II, Section II, of Additional Protocol I.