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Legal considerations regarding the protection of humanitarian workers in the field

30-06-2002 Article, Secure 02, by Alexandre Faite

Article by Alexandre Faite, legal adviser, ICRC. Published in "Secure 02", a Finnish Red Cross publication, June 2002

While many aspects of the safety of humanitarian personnel in the field tend to be focused on techniques and procedures, it is equally important to consider a number of legal issues that have a direct impact on the problem. The protection of the personnel of humanitarian organisations is a matter which falls within the scope of both international and national law.


Humanitarian personnel are exposed to security risks in situations not always covered by IHL. However, without minimising the security risks that occur in other circumstances, there is little doubt that armed conflicts pose the greatest danger to humanitarian workers. Accordingly, this article concentrates on the rules relating to the protection of such workers in situations of armed conflict.  

Analysis of security problems is multifold. Awareness of possible risk factors and also of applicable laws is therefore essential to enable humanitarian workers to react in an adequate and professional manner.  

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