Bombing Hospitals: War Crimes and the End of IHL Protection

Breakfast seminar

Please note: This page refers to an event that has already taken place.

Time: Friday, 14 October 2016 08:15-09:45
Place: PRIO, Hausmanns gate 3, Oslo

Bombing Hospitals: War Crimes and the End of IHL Protection

​​The Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS) and the University of Oslo (UiO) welcome you to a breakfa​st seminar to discuss recent trends in attacks against health facilities and health personnel.​


The post-9/11 environment and the politics of the "global war on terror" reshaped the operating environment and augmented the risks for individual aid workers and aid agencies. Nevertheless, the high number of aerial or shelling attacks that has struck health facilities in war zones in 2015 and 2016 indicate th​at a new form of threat to aid workers and civilians has emerged in the form of deliberate attacks against medical facilities and medical convoys.

While American, Russian, Saudi, and Syrian authorities (and others) explain or acknowledge their responsibility for these attacks in very different ways, international humanitarian law (IHL) appears to play a marginal role as events unfold. While MSF, among others, have called for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to investigate these attacks as serious violations of IHL, there are disagreements about the relevance of this potential contribution.

More generally, the continuous deliberate targeting of medical facilities protected under IHL and the unwillingness of the international community to respond effectively -- or even to condemn the attacks forcefully -- also raises important questions about the future role and relevance of IHL in the international domain.

Similar questions surround the apparent failure of humanitarian diplomacy to stop these attacks from becoming standard practice in the theatre.

Noting these challenges, our panel will reflect on the following issues:

  • What are the implications for humanitarian access and the protection of civilians?
  • What are the long-term implications for the legitimacy and political value of international humanitarian law?
  • What kind of humanitarian diplomacy is needed to try to achieve accountability for humanitarian law violations and to prevent future attacks?
  • ​What has been the Norwegian response to these attacks? How is this response perceived by the Norwegian humanitarian community?

Sp​​​eakers and Program

08:15 - Breakfast & coffee

08:20 - Welcome & introductions

  • Kristin B. Sandvik (Research Profe​​ssor in Humanitarian Studies at PRIO and Associate Professor at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law at UiO)

08:25 - Roundtable Conversation

  • ​​​​Morten Rostrup (Medical Doctor and Professor, Department of Acute Medicine, Oslo Univers​​ity Hospital and former International President of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF))
  • Mads Harlem (Head of Pol​​icy and International Law, Røde Kors)
  • Kjetil M. Larsen (Professor of Law, Norw​egian Centre for Human Rights at UiO)
  • Kristin B. Sandvik will ser​​ve as chair

09:15 - Q & A Session​


Please register above. All are welcome to attend.

Contact Amanda Cellini ( with any questions.​

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