Practice Relating to Rule 28. Medical Units
France’s Disciplinary Regulations (1978), as amended, provides that soldiers in combat must respect and protect hospitals and places where the wounded and sick, civilian or military, are collected, as well as medical units, buildings and materials.
France’s LOAC Summary Note (1992) provides: “The specific immunity granted to certain persons and objects by the law of war [including the material of military and civilian medical services] must be strictly observed … They may not be attacked.”
The Summary Note further states:
The immunity of specifically protected objects may only be lifted under certain conditions and under the personal responsibility of the commander. Military necessity justifies only those measures which are indispensable for the accomplishment of the mission.
France’s LOAC Manual (2001), with reference to Article 12 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, includes medical units among objects which are specifically protected by the law of armed conflict.
France’s Code of Defence (2004), as amended in 2008, states:
[Combatants] shall respect and protect hospitals and other movable or immovable property dedicated to [health] care unless these properties are used to commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful [to the combatant].
France’s Penal Code (1992), as amended in 2010, states in its section on war crimes common to both international and non-international armed conflicts:
Intentionally launching attacks against … medical units … displaying, in accordance with international law, the distinctive emblems provided for in the [1949 Geneva Conventions] or their  Additional Protocols is punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment.
In 1994, during a debate in the UN Security Council concerning the situation in Rwanda, France stated that the international community was faced with a “humanitarian catastrophe” to which it “could not fail to react”, and referred in particular to the fact that hospitals had not been spared by attacks.
Under the instructions given to the French armed forces for the conduct of Opération Mistral, simulating a military operation under the right of self-defence or a mandate of the UN Security Council, medical units shall be protected.