WHO Health Emergencies Programme: Attacking doctors in warfare is a crime

October 5, 2022  12:19

WHO unequivocally condemns any attack on doctors, and this is noted in all WHO fundamental documents and resolutions, said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, at a press conference at the 5th Global Meeting of Rapid Response Medical Teams in Armenia.

He noted that, unfortunately, in recent years, cases of attacks on doctors in various conflict zones have increased, and this is unacceptable, it is a crime and should be condemned.

Gerald Rockenschaub, director of emergency response at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, noted that all such cases are documented in the WHO offices of the countries where the attacks took place. Both the WHO director general and the regional offices condemn these acts, and this is constantly mentioned.

Armenian Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan, in her turn, noted that both in 2020 and during Azerbaijan's last aggression against Armenia, all targeted attacks on ambulance crews are documented and presented to all monitoring links. 

"I'm sure they will become part of Armenia's lawsuits against Azerbaijan in international courts. And these actions, which are against all international humanitarian norms, and even against the laws of war, must be strictly condemned," she said.

Asked whether the WHO has no more effective mechanisms, other than documenting and condemning attacks on health workers, to hold war criminals accountable, Ryan said the WHO has no such function.

The WHO cannot investigate or prosecute these cases. The organization has no such function because it involves criminal medical examinations, evidence gathering, etc. But the Secretary-General and the International Criminal Court have the authority to hear such cases. When they hear such cases at the ICC, they use the documented data of the WHO in accepting these claims, he said.

As for Azerbaijan's failure to provide medical care for wounded Armenian POWs, Dr. Ryan said the UN and Red Cross, not the WHO, are in charge of POW issues.

The 5th Emergency Medical Teams Global Meeting opened in Yerevan on October 5.

The high-level international event brought together more than 500 participants from 100 countries and organizations, including the heads of international health organizations, health ministers of various countries, and experts in rapid response.

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