Practice Relating to Rule 35. Hospital and Safety Zones and Neutralized Zones
Spain’s LOAC Manual (1996) refers to Article 23 of the 1949 Geneva Convention I and Article 14 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV concerning hospital and safety zones and to Article 15 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV concerning neutralized zones.
The manual states that hospital and safety zones, which are intended to shelter from the effects of war the wounded and sick, the old, children under 15 years of age, expectant mothers and mothers with children under 7 years of age, may be established by agreement between the parties to a conflict, and prohibits attacks on such areas. Equally prohibited are attacks against neutralized zones, which may be established by agreement in order to protect wounded and sick combatants and non-combatants, as well as civilians not taking any part in hostilities.
The manual also stresses that, while hospital and safety zones can be set up in areas located outside the combat zone, neutralized zones are established in the regions where hostilities are taking place.
Spain’s LOAC Manual (2007) states that the zones in which military operations are not permitted include hospital zones, hospital and safety zones and neutralized zones.
The manual also states:
It is in the mutual interest of the parties to the conflict to establish protected areas where particularly vulnerable sectors of the population can be kept safe from the effects of war. In addition to those specifically provided for in the law of armed conflict, which are listed below, other protected areas can be organized through special agreements.
1.3.e.(3). Hospital zones and localities
They are created outside the areas where the hostilities are being conducted by express agreement.
1.3.e.(4). Neutralized zones
They can be organized in areas where the hostilities are being conducted by express agreement of the parties to the conflict.
With regard to hospital and safety zones, the manual further states:
[They] are established to protect the wounded, sick, disabled, elderly, children under fifteen, pregnant women and women with children under seven. They are established by agreement between the parties to the conflict. They should be situated well away from areas of interest for military operations.
With regard to neutralized zones, the manual further states:
They are established by agreement between the parties to the conflict in the combat zone, with a view to protecting:
- the wounded and the sick, whether they are combatants or not;
- civilians with no involvement in the hostilities.
The agreement establishing the neutralized area must specify the start and duration of the neutralization of the area.
Spain’s Penal Code (1995) provides for the punishment of “anyone who, in the event of armed conflict, should … knowingly violate the protection due to … health and security areas [and/or] neutralized areas … which are duly identified with signs or the appropriate distinctive signals”.
Spain’s Penal Code (1995), as amended in 2003, states:
Anyone who [commits any of the following acts] during armed conflict shall be punished with three to seven years’ imprisonment:
1. Knowingly violating the protection owed to … medical and safety zones.