|Manual on the Rights and Duties of Medical Personnel in Armed Conflicts (ICRC, 1982, 77 p.)|
|CHAPTER 2. DUTIES OF MEDICAL PERSONNEL|
Art. 12, G I
It may happen that a Party to the conflict is compelled to retreat in haste and to abandon wounded and sick persons.
In such cases, the First Convention requires it to leave with these persons some of its medical personnel and equipment to help care for them, as far as military requirements permit. The obligation is thus not absolute but, as the commentator on the First Convention pointed out, this provision "nevertheless constitutes an obvious moral duty".
It may also happen that a medical unit administered by the ICRC finds itself in territory held by one Party to the conflict but on the point of being invaded by the adverse Party.
In such cases, the medical personnel obviously have a major responsibility towards the wounded and sick. In every case they shall do all in their power to ensure that these wounded and sick persons are placed in the best material conditions and have supplies of food and medical equipment, that the unit is clearly marked, and that the adverse Party is notified. It should be recalled that the latter shall be obliged to respect and protect the wounded and sick and treat them humanely.
Are the medical personnel under the obligation to remain behind? We have seen that, except in the case of military necessity, the Parties to the conflict are obliged to leave a part of their medical personnel. Therefore the military medical personnel of one Party to the conflict may be given the order to remain, and in that case they have no alternative. In other cases, the matter is more delicate. The head of a medical unit might be compared with the captain of a ship and the personnel with the crew. In a shipwreck, they should be the last to leave the ship and they ought not to leave passengers - here, the wounded and sick - behind. But it cannot be denied that such situations present great dangers.
For this reason, apart from the case of the military medical personnel cited above, or that where the medical personnel have received explicit instructions from the Party under which they serve, we feel inclined to leave the personnel themselves to take such a grave decision in strict accordance with their own consciences.
However, it should be pointed out that these situations should form the exception, and that evacuation from the combat zones of the wounded who can be transported should be planned and organized in good time.
The personnel who remain with the wounded and sick shall make sure that they are easily identifiable. They shall not in any event use any arms they may be carrying against the military who may occupy the hospital - unless members of the military attempt to ill-treat the wounded and sick - and shall try, by means of discussion and persuasion, to do all they can for their patients. If necessary, they shall not hesitate to care also for newly arrived casualties, whether wounded or sick, who require treatment. They shall try to get in touch as quickly as possible with the responsible authorities to examine the situation, remind the authorities of their obligations and reach the most satisfactory possible solution for the wounded and sick in their charge.