Practice Relating to Rule 35. Hospital and Safety Zones and Neutralized Zones
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands states that the protection offered to hospital and safety zones concerns “the wounded and sick, disabled and aged persons, children under 15 years, expectant mothers and mothers with children under 7 years” and specifies that “the rules governing hospital or safety zones must be laid down in an agreement between the parties to the conflict”.
The manual also underlines the possibility for the parties to set up neutralized zones through a written agreement for the protection of “the wounded and sick, whether military or civilian, and civilians who neither take part in the hostilities nor carry out work of a military character”.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
In addition to possible action as a protecting power and to gathering information on prisoners of war, the ICRC fulfils the following tasks:
- providing support in establishing hospitals and safe areas.
The manual further states:
0557. Hospital and safety zones
Hospital and safety zones are areas where protection is offered to the wounded and sick and to certain groups of the civilian population, against the violence of war. The protection in hospital and safety zones applies to:
- the wounded and sick
- the disabled and old people
- children under age 15
- pregnant women
- mothers of children under the age of 7.
0558. Regulations on a hospital or safety zone should be established by agreement between the parties to a conflict. Both the Wounded and Sick Convention [1949 Geneva Convention I] and the Civilians Convention [1949 Geneva Convention IV] have annexes showing forms of agreement on hospital and safety zones. Setting up hospital and safety zones is intended to protect the listed protected persons far from the theatre of war and to maintain the zones permanently for the duration of the war.
A safety zone was set up in 1937, during the Sino-Japanese war. Around 250,000 Chinese found protection there under ICRC supervision.
Efforts by the ICRC to set up safety zones during the Second World War proved fruitless.
0559. A neutralized zone is an area within the field of battle where protection is offered to:
- wounded and sick combatants or civilians; and
- civilians taking no part in hostilities, and performing no work of a military character.
Neutralized zones are intended to give protection in the field of operations, though only in the short term. The creation of a neutralized zone requires a written agreement between representatives of the parties to the conflict.
In 1971, representatives of the ICRC succeeded in creating a neutralized zone in the war between India and Pakistan. A hotel and an adjacent hospital were recognized as such. During conflicts prior to the establishment of the Civilians Convention in 1949, the ICRC also sometimes succeeded in setting up neutralized zones: in a district of Madrid in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War; in Shanghai in 1937, during the Sino-Japanese war; and in Jerusalem in 1948, during the Palestine conflict.