Breaking the Silence: Advocacy and Accountability for Attacks on Hospitals in Armed Conflict

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Lara Hakki, Eric Stover, Rohini J. Haar
Publication Date
November 4, 2021
Publication Type
Journal Article
Conflict, International Criminal Law, International Humanitarian Law


When hospitals are damaged or destroyed in armed conflict, the loss is far greater than the physical structures: safe spaces are lost, health outcomes worsen and trust in health institutions is undermined. Despite the legal protections afforded to medical units under international humanitarian law (IHL), attacks on hospitals are a recurring problem in armed conflict. In 2019, the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition documented more than 1,203 incidents of violence against medical facilities, transports, personnel and patients in twenty countries. This article examines investigations of four post-Second World War incidents of attacks on hospitals in armed conflicts in Vietnam, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Palestine and Afghanistan, the role public advocacy campaigns played in bringing about these investigations, and how national and international authorities can work together to promote greater accountability for violations of IHL.