Practice Relating to Rule 29. Medical Transports
Section B. Respect for and protection of medical aircraft
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands restates the rules governing medical aircraft found in Articles 25–28 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
0627. Medical aircraft
Special rules exist for the protection of medical aircraft. First, they distinguish between the places where such aircraft are flying:
- in zones under the control of friendly troops;
- in contact zones;
- in zones under the control of the adversary.
0628. Zones under friendly control
In a situation where medical aircraft are flying in zones under the control of friendly troops, no rules are prescribed, except that, for safety’s sake, the adversary may be informed when and where medical aircraft are carrying out flights.
0629. Contact zones
A contact zone means any area on land where the parties’ forces are fighting each other. If the parties in a conflict have reached no agreement on flights in the contact zone, medical aircraft fly at their own risk. An adversary which recognizes a medical aircraft must, of course, respect it.
0630. Zones under the adversary’s control
Subject to obtaining the adversary’s permission, medical aircraft enjoy total protection while flying over the area under the adversary’s control. If permission is not obtained, or if the aeroplane or helicopter strays from the prescribed route, or breaches other set conditions, it must identify itself as quickly as possible to the adversary which should make every reasonable effort to order a medical aircraft, identified as such, to land, or should take other measures before attacking the aircraft. If one of the parties to a conflict forces a medical aircraft to land and it emerges, on inspection, that the consignment does not meet certain specific requirements for medical flights, the plane may be seized. In the case of a dedicated medical plane, it may be used only as such thereafter.
0631. A number of further rules apply to the use of medical aircraft in general. Medical aircraft may not be used in an attempt to render military objectives immune from attack. It is also prohibited to use such aircraft to gather military intelligence or carry equipment for that purpose, or otherwise to procure any advantage against the adversary. Medical aircraft may carry only the wounded, the sick, medical personnel and religious personnel. Furthermore, only portable weapons and ammunition of the persons present on board the aircraft may be carried with them.
In its chapter on neutrality, the manual states:
Except with consent and the possible attachment of conditions or restrictions, medical aircraft may not over-fly or land on the territory of a neutral State or other State not a party to the conflict. If consent is obtained, medical aircraft should be respected and protected. Nevertheless, they must obey any order to land.
If consent is not obtained, a medical aircraft should do everything to announce the flight and to identify itself.