Medical care in armed conflict: Perpetrator discourse in historical perspective

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International review of the Red Cross
International Review of the Red Cross (2019), 101(911), 771–803.

Although the Geneva Conventions have been successively revised since 1864, norms regarding the protection of medical care have been frequently disregarded. Despite current claims of international humanitarian law in crisis, comparing historic levels of violations with contemporary incidents is quantitatively challenging. Reviewing past reactions and justifications used by perpetrators of attacks on medical care can, however, be revealing. Based on a series of emblematic cases, qualitative analysis of perpetrator discourse can contribute to a better understanding of why the protection of medical care in armed conflict continues to be problematic to this day, notably through the rationales given for attacks, which have remained remarkably consistent over time.