States’ obligations to mitigate the direct and indirect health consequences of non-international armed conflicts: complementarity of IHL and the right to health
31-03-2013 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 889, by Amrei Müller
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Armed conflicts have numerous adverse health consequences for the affected populations, many of which occur in the long-term. This article analyses in detail how international humanitarian law (IHL) and the right to health complement each other in obliging states to mitigate the direct and indirect health consequences of non-international armed conflicts.With its historical origin and purpose of protecting wounded and sick combatants of standing governmental armies, IHL focuses on the protection of the wounded and sick suffering from the direct health consequences of armed conflicts, such as injuries resulting from ongoing hostilities. The right to health is more expansive: it obliges states to prioritise the provision of primary health care through creating and maintaining an accessible basic health system. This focus enables it to highlight and address the indirect health consequences of armed conflicts, such as the spreading of epidemic and endemic diseases and rising child and maternal mortality and morbidity.
Keywords: right to health, wounded and sick, medical personnel, medical transports, medical units, non-international armed conflict, primary health care, prevention and treatment of disease, health systems.
Amrei Müller, PhD in Law (University of Nottingham, UK, 2011), is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department for Public and International Law of the University of Oslo, Norway.