United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 25. Medical Personnel
Section B. Equipment of medical personnel with light individual weapons
The US Field Manual (1956) states:
Although medical personnel may carry arms for self-defense, they may not employ such arms against enemy forces acting in conformity with the law of war. These arms are for their personal defense and for the protection of the wounded and sick under their charge against marauders and other persons violating the law of war.
The US Air Force Commander’s Handbook (1980) states: “Medical personnel are permitted to carry arms solely to protect themselves and their patients against unlawful attack.”
The US Naval Handbook (1995) states:
Possession of small arms for self-protection, for the protection of the wounded and sick, and for protection from marauders and others violating the law of armed conflict does not disqualify medical personnel from protected status. Medical personnel may not use such arms against enemy forces acting in conformity with the law of armed conflict.
The Annotated Supplement to the US Naval Handbook (1997) notes that “there was no agreement at the [CDDH] as to what “light individual weapons” for self-defence and for the defence of patients meant, although a number of military experts agreed with the British proposal (see infra
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states:
Medical personnel may possess small arms for self-protection or for the protection of the wounded and sick in their care against marauders and others violating the law of armed conflict. Medical personnel may not use such arms against enemy forces acting in conformity with the law of armed conflict.
At the CDDH, the United States “agreed that the carrying of arms by civilian medical personnel … should not be considered as harmful, but in occupied territories or in areas in which fighting was taking place, the right of the party in control of the area to disarm such personnel should be reserved”.
According to the Report on US Practice, it is the opinio juris of the United States that
[medical] personnel and medical vehicles may be armed, but in international armed conflicts, they may use their weapons only in self-defence and in defence of their patients against marauders and against those enemy forces that do not respect their protected status.