Reflections on the Colombian case law on the protection of medical personnel against punishment

One of the fundamental rules for the protection of health-care personnel in any circumstance, including contexts of armed conflicts, provides for a prohibition on punishing medical professionals who merely act in accordance with medical ethics. However, although the reasons for this prohibition may seem obvious, in contexts of non-international armed conflicts the provision of medical care to wounded and sick members of non-state armed groups can expose medical personnel to accusations of participation in criminal activities. Based on the Colombian domestic legislation and jurisprudence on the matter, this article aims to propose elements of analysis on the apparent contradiction that exists between, on the one hand, the prohibition against punishing medical personnel for merely providing health care to the wounded and sick who need it, and on the other, the prerogative of the state authorities to restore order and security within their territory through the imposition of criminal sanctions on members of non-state armed groups or their aiders and abettors.

Keywords: health care, Colombia, violence against health care, protection of medical personnel against punishment.

About the authors

Ekaterina Ortiz Linares
Former Legal Adviser at the ICRC Delegation in Colombia

Ekaterina Ortiz Linares is a Former Legal Adviser at the ICRC Delegation in Colombia and current ICRC field delegate. She holds an LLM from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland.

Marisela Silva Chau

Marisela Silva Chau is Coordinator of the Legal Department at the ICRC Delegation in Colombia. She holds a law degree from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú .