ICRC databases on international humanitarian law
Treaties and Documents
1949 Conventions and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977.
[p.111] Part II, Section I -- General Protection
290 This Section gives general information regarding the protection of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, particularly by defining the terms -- which was not done in the first Convention -- and by indicating the scope of application of Part II.
291 It is important in that it develops the protection of ' civilian ' medical personnel and units by the distinctive emblem, in this way enabling all those capable of caring for the wounded and sick in time of armed conflict to be mobilized more efficiently. This development can only be welcomed: the wounded and sick have all too often suffered from deficient medical services, inadequately equipped as regards personnel and materials (' matériel '). (1)
292 Protection of ' medical duties, ' of aid societies and of the civilian population collecting the wounded or coming to their aid has the same purpose.
293 The improvement in identification and the introduction of technical means of identification are an essential complement to this development, for it is all too true that protection granted medical personnel and medical objects is pointless if such personnel and objects are not identified in time.
294 Finally, it should be noted that emphasis is put on the protection of persons in the power of the enemy or detained for reasons related to the armed conflict. As they are often ill-treated or even affected in their physical or mental well-being, such people are in particular need of protection: the text is unambiguous in specifying the principles to be observed with respect to them, as well as on practices which are to be forbidden. This is a welcome step forward, though it should not be forgotten that a tremendous effort must still be made to ensure strict application of these rules.
' Y. S. '
(1) The corresponding word in the Protocol and also used in the commentary by the author is ' matériel ';