Why does the Geneva Convention forbid medics from carrying any more than the most basic of self-defense weapons?


Why does the Geneva Convention forbid medics from carrying any more than the most basic of self-defense weapons?

In: 10147

Because imagine how ineffective the international law would be if an army could just hide all their soldiers behind red crosses and then call foul when they got shot at by the other army in a regular firefight.

Because you are not supposed to shoot at medical personnel on the battlefield therefore it would only make sense that they do not need to carry the same weapons as infantry and so on…

Because the war crimes rules also say you’re not allowed to shoot at medics.

If medics were allowed to be armed, armies could just dress up *all* their soldiers as “medics” and say “haha you can’t shoot any of us.”

But that obviously wouldn’t work, and the enemy would shoot at them anyway…*leaving zero of the intended protection for their* ***actual*** *medics.*

Part of the privilege that comes with enjoying protection under the Geneva Convention means sacrificing the right to exploit such privelege for military advantage.

The whole purpose of the Geneva Convention is to define and codify the line between ethically acceptable and unacceptable behaviour so as to minimize unnecessary human suffering caused by war.

A medic’s role is to save life and reduce human suffering. Humans on both sides benefit when medics can perform their duties with decreased risk of being targeted by the enemy.

Every participant on the battlefield has a right to self-defence.

But allowing medics to contribute to offensive operations while enjoying protection from attack is unsportsmanlike. Sportsmanship is a good way to frame principles in the Geneva Convention to gain a sense of how its drafters approached battlefield ethics. Without basic respect for dignity and integrity, human beings are nothing more than savage animals. When such creatures are armed and fight on behalf of nations, we call them “war criminals.”

Edit: since my original post doesn’t explicitly say so, the point is to be able to identify when people commit unethical actions during war so that justifiable legal action may follow after the fact.

To give the other side a relatively good reason to believe that they really are there just for medical help

Fought in three conflicts as a combat medic, never wore a red cross and was just as well armed as everyone else. Strictly speaking we were not allowed to take part in offensive activities like ambushes but we’re also told to take part in contacts as we’re still an extra weapon until there are casualties and even then you want to win the firefight

I’m curiosu as to which fighting force actually follows this though. If you’re fighting someone/in a firefight with someone, if you come across a medic with his hands up what is preventing you from blasting the dude? Or doing worse to him? It’s not like there are people in the warzone with a clipboard and pencil being like ‘mmyup that’s a warcrime you can’t do that’. I feel like medics probably get blasted/executed all the time.


The Geneva Conventions declare medical personnel to be non-combatants. Depending on which army, they may or may not carry rifles to defend themselves. However, it would be very difficult to argue that someone carrying anything more than the bare minimum weapon that a soldier might carry is a non-combatant. Painting a red cross on a howitzer would be a bit ridiculous.

Many of the rules about noncombatant status exist to make sure that people don’t take advantage of the protection and exploit it in perfidy. If this was tolerated, the writers expected that it would result in people disregarding noncombatant markings because of the possibility of perfidy.

If a medic is firing his weapon, it is not a war crime to fire upon him. You can expect any and every soldier to be issued a rifle. However, they would not issue anything more (e.g. grenade launcher, automatic rifle/light machine gun, designated marksman rifle, anti-tank launcher at the squad level, machine gun, heavier anti-armor weapon, at the platoon level, mortar or other heavier weapons at the company and battalion levels) to someone who isn’t expected to use it outside of situations when he is personally fired upon. Those things are expensive and giving it to one of those guys means that you have one less to fire at the enemy. Anyone who has one of those can be expected to be using it, and therefore, not a noncombatant. Routinely giving other weapons out to people wearing noncombatant markers would cause adversaries to assume perfidy and fire upon actual medics.

Some medics do forego noncombatant status and carry heavy firepower with them for various reasons (including but not limited to that the opposing forces do not care about noncombatant status, is not a signatory, and is willing to do things that would be war crimes if they were signatories). One example is the Israeli Defence Force’s tank-ambulances, another example is the heavily armed helicopters that the United States Airforce pararescuemen ride in (the helicopters that the US Army sets aside to be used exclusively for medical evacuations do not have any weapons and have a red cross carried on them).

Beause it is important that medics are not seen as a threat.

A medic with a gun is someone who can shoot you, which means you might want to shoot them first.

And if *some* medics have guns then you might have to worry that *any* medic you see has a gun, even if it’s not visible. And then you might want to shoot them too.

In order for medics to do their job, people *on eithe side* have to be able to assume that the medic does not constitute a threat.

Because it also forbids medics from being shot. Therefore there should be no situation where they need to defend themselves.

Additionally because of this ruling all militaries would just start dressing all soldiers as medics to trick their enemies then ambushing them.

You gotta remember this was 1949 – how else were they meant to protect against the Medic class becoming OP in generations of video games to come?

So I trained with the Oz overseas deployment team- we are told we cannot carry weapons (which is fine by me!) but also that this now makes us easy targets for kidnap, ransom and robbery…

There is no honor in war.

I was in Iraq. Every single medic was armed with an m-16 or m-4. The enemy didn’t give a fuck about Geneva conventions. Our medics needed to be armed in the event they were shot at which happened regularly.

Medics traditionally use small arms, which means we’re usually armed with a rifle. The average infantryman has the exact same weapon as their combat medic counterpart.

Per the Geneva conventions it’s considered a war crime to fire at a medic (who is clearly wearing Red Cross insignia) that is not taking offensive acts towards the opposing side. The moment a medic shoots at the enemy they lose their protection under the Geneva conventions and are fair game (if you follow the Geneva conventions). In most modern wars medics don’t wear Red Cross insignia, return fire with their infantry counterparts, and are therefore not protected by the Geneva conventions.

Source: Served as a medic in the US Army

Medics wore distinctive insignia visible at a great distance (a white circle with a red cross inside) at first, in order to mark them as non-combatants. Unfortunately, enemy soldiers began deliberately shooting at Army medics and Navy hospital corpsmen, so they stopped wearing the medic red cross insignia. Today, they dress exactly like combatants for their own protection.

The Army trains their own medics.

The U.S. Navy provides medics to the Marine Corps in the form of hospital corpsmen.
They are members of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps. All Marines are combatants, so they cannot be medics. Most young Marines consider the corpsmen to be Marines too, and they will defend them anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances. “Doc takes care of us, so we take care of Doc.” A good example would be corpsmen who get into some kind of conflict in a bar. (LPT: *Never* pick a fight with a Navy corpsman with Marines present.)



Before helicopter medevacs (“dust-offs”) were introduced during the Korean war, there were some physicians who went forward with the medics and combat troops. They set up emergency Aid Stations just behind the front lines. Wounded soldiers were first stabilized, sometimes with emergency surgery, then moved back to Battalion Aid Stations and then on to Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, like in the TV show “M.A.S.H.” (The fictional 4077th MASH was based on the real-life 8055th MASH unit in the Korean War, 1950-1953.) Doctors, nurses, religious clergy and civilians are all non-combatants. They are not supposed to carry weapons, and are supposed to treat all wounded soldiers and civilians equally, including enemy soldiers. Medical facilities are guarded and defended by a detachment of regular soldiers who are combatants, not by hospital or aid station personnel. Among other things, they must take charge of any weapons which arrive at the hospital with wounded soldiers.

It’s basically a “gentleman’s agreement” for lack of a better term between countries that troops providing medical care to Soldiers may act in self defense, but may not otherwise directly engage in combat. This is basically so that everyone gets to treat their wounded.

There is also an agreement that militaries will provide medical care to wounded or captured enemy Soldiers.

Combat medic here. We don’t carry crew weapons but we carry rifles and pistols.

Our weapons are for self defense and self defense of the wounded. The weapons are considered defensive and offensive.

Remember a medic has a special place in combat. We are to treat all sides of the conflict. That is why we are not supposed to be fighting in the battle. We are there to assist.

The US Solution to this, given that insurgent groups tend not to give a shit about protected status of medical personnel, has been to create a grey area by giving all combat personnel a bit of medical training and equipment and calling them “Combat Life Savers”. Give every soldier the ability to stabilize an injured comrade, while maintaining full legal combatant status and thus be allowed to be fully armed.

Does it work well in disorganized insurgent warfare? Yes, it seems so. Will it work in organized warfare with another nation? Remains to be seen, but probably not given higher rates of casualties requiring more medical attention and more drastically impacting your units output down range since it’s full rate soldiers playing doctor instead of specialized soldiers.