Practice Relating to Rule 28. Medical Units
Spain’s LOAC Manual (1996) defines medical units in accordance with Article 8 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
The manual states: “Medical units must be respected and protected in all circumstances.”
The manual further provides: “The protection of medical units ceases only when they are used to commit acts hostile to the enemy and after a warning setting a reasonable time-limit to stop the hostile activity has remained unheeded.” It refers to the acts enumerated in Article 22 of the 1949 Geneva Convention I as those not considered hostile to the enemy.
Spain’s LOAC Manual (2007) defines medical units in accordance with Article 8 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
The manual states:
Medical units must be respected and protected at all times. This means that:
- they must not be attacked;
- their continued operation must be guaranteed if they fall into the power of the enemy;
- they must be given assistance and supplies;
- there are limitations on the right to requisition them.
The prohibition on attacking medical units does not mean that they cannot be occupied or requisitioned under the conditions specified below. Medical units must not be defended, if penetrated by the enemy, because this would constitute an act of hostility and result in the discontinuance of protection.
The manual adds that civilian medical units “enjoy the same protection as their military counterparts, provided that they comply with the requirements entitling them to special protection”.
The manual further states that “medical facilities when they are used in military action for a purpose other than their intended one” become military objectives and may be attacked.
The manual further provides:
Advance warning must be given of attacks on civilian or military fixed medical establishments and mobile medical units which have lost the right to protection after committing acts harmful to the troops of the adverse party. A reasonable time limit must have been given and remained unheeded before the attack takes place.
Spain’s Military Criminal Code (1985) provides for the punishment of any soldier who “knowingly violates the protection due to medical establishments, mobile medical units, … and medical material … which are recognizable by the established signs or the character of which can unequivocally be distinguished from a distance”, provided that the protection due is not misused for hostile purposes.