The conception of transparent conflict zone hospitals

April 06 2018 | by Korvin AG |

    Since the end of the Cold War and especially since 2001 there are countless reports about attacks on hospitals that are located on or near the frontlines of different armed conflicts. Naturally, events like these are causing public uproars, but oftentimes there are conflicting news about whether these really were hospitals, or whether were these buildings co-located arms caches as well, or were these buildings acted as safe garrisons for militants, etc. The attacks on hospitals are becoming more and more widespread and the perpetrators are ranging from roving bands of bandits to the jet fighter bombers of massive superpowers.

    The only agreement that can be unanimously reached in order to keep the spirit of humanity is that hospitals must not be targeted and attacked by any party, for it constitutes a war crime. But how can such an agreement be implemented and observed?

    In my view it is doable, if some readily available information technology and a degree of publicity is employed. My conception is rather simple:

1.) hospitals in conflict zones should be designated as "transparent hospitals",

2.) their locations (and perhaps their ground and aerial views as well) should be publicized and therefore registered as one,

3.) and 24 hours online CCTV or webcam footages proving that these are indeed hospitals  - and are functioning only as hospitals - should be streamed at publicly accessible sites. This must be done by one or more international bodies or NGOs that are respected across the board or by those authorities that are tasked to undertake investigations into war crimes. In other words: the video streams must be verifiable and authenticated. The streams must include interior and outside views, so as to be able to monitor all activities within the premises and accurately identify any and all attacking groups, vehicles or aircraft - both day and night.

    Yes, there are some issues that can hinder the conception's actual use. One of these is the question of the right of privacy of both the patients, the medical staff and the visitors regarding the constant recording and airing of said video footage.  I am not educated in law, so I could only have an uneducated opinion, but here it is: I think that the right to life should be of more weight than the right to privacy under the threat of destruction by deliberate action or mistake. The right to privacy is declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, 
family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and 
reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against 
such interference or attacks."
(Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

    The right to life, however, is preceding it in the Charter - signaling to me that it is of greater importance:

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."
(Article 3 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

    The other law source that is more applicable (as there is a possibility of some kind of enforcement) might be the Geneva Conventions, which explicitly deals with the protection of medical facilities during international and non-international conflicts.

    I am admitting to not being an expert on this issue, yet I'd like to share my take on a possible working of the conception:

1.) Once a hospital is designated as a "transparent hospital" all the activities occurring there could be monitored by anyone, therefore it cannot be stated by any actor that it had no foreknowledge what was going down at that very location.

2.) If in spite of the possibility to check the location against a public list of the "transparent hospitals" any party targets such an institution it could only do so by automatically committing a war crime, which could be then pursued by the law.

3.) The authenticated footage of the attackers could be readily used as evidence against those responsible of the war crime.

4.) If and when any party maliciously attempt to masquerade a military facility as a medical one it might be possible to prove so by the (or by the lack of) recorded authenticated video streams.

    The conception relies on the emerging civilian journalism scene as it is highly likely that any side in a conflict will have some kind of media presence that could alert public attention if for some reason the case is missed by larger media outlets.

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Korvin AG

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