The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

« Calling things by the wrong name adds to the affliction of the world. » Albert Camus.


A requisition is a demand, made by a belligerent or a government representative for the temporary or permanent use of certain objects (movable or immovable) or services. In principle, requisition is carried out in exchange for compensation. To prevent requisitions from causing excessive deprivation within the population, humanitarian law specifically regulates the right of requisition in numerous cases, especially in occupied territories.

Requisition of Medical Material and Personnel

Specific rules limit the requisition of medical installations, personnel, material, and transport.

These rules are dispersed throughout the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols (GCI Arts. 33–35; GCIV Art. 57; API Art. 14).

  • Real and personal property belonging to aid societies is considered private property. The right of requisition recognized for belligerents by the laws and customs of war must only be exercised in cases of urgent necessity, and only after the welfare of the wounded and sick has been ensured (GCI Art. 34).
  • Humanitarian law also establishes rules to protect medical buildings and material belonging to armed forces. These may not be diverted from their purpose as long as they are required for the care of the wounded and sick and must not be intentionally destroyed (GCI Art. 33). Transports of wounded and sick persons or of medical equipment must be respected and protected. “Should such transports or vehicles fall into the hands of the adverse Party, they shall be subject to the laws of war, on condition that the Party to the conflict who captures them shall, in all cases, ensure the care of the wounded and sick they contain” (GCI Art. 35).
  • In occupied territories:

—“An Occupying Power may requisition civilian hospitals only temporarily and only in cases of urgent necessity for the care of military wounded and sick, and then on condition that suitable arrangements are made in due time for the care and treatment of the patients and for the needs of the civilian population for hospital accommodation. The material and stores of civilian hospitals cannot be requisitioned so long as they are necessary for the needs of the civilian population” (GCIV Art. 57).

—Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions further enumerates the details of the measures to be taken with regard to medical requisition. These provisions (see API Art. 14, later) may serve as a reference in situations other than occupied territories.

Occupied Territory

  • In an occupied territory, requisitions must be proportionate to the resources of the State, to make sure that objects indispensable to the survival of the population are spared (GCIV Art. 55, API Art. 63).

  • Article 14 of Additional Protocol I unifies and clarifies the existing rules concerning the requisition of medical material and personnel. It makes them equally applicable to all hospitals, as well as temporary or mobile medical units, and includes medical personnel, medical objects, and the means of medical transportation among the objects or services that can be requisitioned only under very specific circumstance and conditions:

    1. The occupying power has the duty to ensure that the medical needs of the civilian population in occupied territory continue to be satisfied.
    2. The occupying power shall not, therefore, requisition civilian medical units, their equipment, their material, or the services of their personnel, so long as these resources are necessary for the provision of adequate medical services for the civilian population and for the continuing medical care of any wounded and sick already under treatment.
    3. Provided that the general rule in paragraph 2 continues to be observed, the occupying power may requisition the said resources, subject to the following particular conditions:
    4. that the resources are necessary for the adequate and immediate medical treatment of the wounded and sick members of the armed forces of the occupying power or of prisoners of war;
    5. that the requisition continues only while such necessity exists; and
    6. that immediate arrangements are made to ensure that the medical needs of the civilian population, as well as those of any wounded and sick under treatment who are affected by the requisition, continue to be satisfied (API Art. 14).
  • When persons are being requisitioned, individuals must not be forced to take part in military operations against their own country (GCIV Art. 51).

Medical dutiesMedical personnelMedical servicesOccupied territoryPillage

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