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Attacks on Medical Units in International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law - September 2016 (OHCHR legal note)

The Syrian conflict has been characterised by the damaging or destruction of a high number of medical units. The sheer number of incidents recorded alone indicates that in many cases such facilities may have been either deliberately targeted or otherwise damaged/destroyed as a result of a failure to adhere to international humanitarian law- in particular the prohibition of launching indiscriminate attacks and the principles of proportionality and precautions in attack. OHCHR has in the first half of 2016, documented medical units such as hospitals and clinics being hit on an almost weekly basis, depriving the local population of their right to health. According to the World Health Organisation almost 60 percent of public hospitals in Syria are now either only partially functional or have closed, and more than 750 health workers have been killed since the beginning of the conflict.

This note has been developed to support humanitarians working on Syria. Its aim is to provide a brief overview of the relevant international humanitarian law and human rights law relating to the protection of medical units in the Syrian context. 

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Original Publication Date: 
30 Sep 2016
Document type: