Practice Relating to Rule 31. Humanitarian Relief Personnel
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands states: “Personnel engaged in relief activities must be respected and protected. Only in case of imperative military necessity may their activities be limited.”
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
Rendering humanitarian assistance never means involvement in the conflict.
- The immunity granted to medical personnel is coupled with the obligation of such personnel to refrain from any hostile action.
- No one may be harassed or condemned for helping the wounded or sick.
The manual further states: “Humanitarian aid is not intervention in the conflict”.
In its chapter on the protection of the civilian population, the manual states:
The assistance provided in any relief action may include relief personnel. They must be respected and protected, and the parties to the conflict must provide them with as much support as possible. Only in the case of imperative military necessity may the activities of the relief personnel be limited.
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
It is prohibited deliberately to direct attacks against personnel, equipment, units or vehicles involved in the provision of humanitarian aid or peace missions under the UN Charter, provided that they are entitled to the protection afforded under international law to civilians or civilian objects.
Under the International Crimes Act (2003) of the Netherlands, “intentionally directing attacks against personnel … involved in humanitarian assistance …, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians … under the international law of armed conflict” is a crime, whether committed in an international or a non-international armed conflict.
On the basis of an interview with a legal adviser of the Ministry of Defence, the Report on the Practice of the Netherlands notes that during the negotiations on the 1980 Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, one of the more important issues for the Netherlands was “the protection of humanitarian personnel, ICRC delegates in particular, and military personnel assisting in humanitarian relief operations”. It adds: “The Netherlands would have preferred more protective provisions than are now included in the text.”