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Iraq: Use of Ambulances in Attacks a War Crime

Insurgents Undermine Protections for Civilians and Combatants Alike

According to media reports, Iraqi security forces came under attack by a suicide bomber when an ambulance packed with explosives blew up outside a police headquarters on January 19, 2011 in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad. This follows a similar incident involving the use of an ambulance in an attack earlier the same week.

The use of ambulances or other medical transport equipment bearing medical insignia for military attacks is a serious violation of the laws of war that amounts to a war crime, Human Rights Watch said. Such attacks are war crimes under the Additional Protocols of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and customary laws of war. In addition to endangering medical personnel by casting suspicion on their neutrality, it undermines their ability to deliver urgent medical assistance to civilians and combatants on all sides of a conflict.

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