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Respecting and protecting health care in armed conflicts and in situations not covered by international humanitarian law

31-03-2012 Legal Fact Sheet

Protecting the sick, the wounded, health personnel and health services during conflicts and other emergencies. The role of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

In times of armed conflict, international humanitarian law (IHL) provides rules to protect access to health care. These rules bind States and non-State armed groups. In situations that do not reach the threshold of armed conflict only international human rights law (IHRL) and domestic law apply. In principle, IHRL applies at all times, unless States decide to derogate from it. Though less specific than IHL, IHRL contains several rules protecting access to health care.


  • International and non-international armed conflict
  • Situations other than armed conflicts
  • Maintaining health-care systems during armed conflicts and in situations not covered by IHL
  • Domestic normative and practical measures