A Belligerent Party may inform the enemy of the position of its medical units. The absence of such notification does not exempt any of the Belligerent Parties from the obligations contained in Rule 71.
- This Rule is based on Art. 12 (3) of AP/I, which invites Belligerent Parties to notify each other of the position of their fixed medical units.
- Contrary to Art. 12 (3) of AP/I, the scope of application of Rule 73 is not limited to fixed medical units. Many battlefield hospitals are mobile in the sense of being deployable, and the Group of Experts considered that Rule 73 ought to be applicable to these hospitals as well. However, when notification of the future location of a mobile medical unit is given to the enemy, it does not have to include the route taken by the unit to reach its destination (although providing such details might enhance the protection of the unit).
- Rule 73 does not apply to medical transports. It would be unrealistic to expect a Belligerent Party to keep the enemy informed of their constant movement. However, nothing prevents a Belligerent Party from informing the enemy of the major movements of medical transports when doing so may enhance their protection (e.g., in the case of a hospital ship or medical aircraft in circumstances where no consent is required).
- Rule 73 entails a mere recommendation to Belligerent Parties aimed at reinforcing the security of their medical units. It is up to each Belligerent Party to decide — depending on the particular circumstances of each case — whether it wants to make the position of its medical units known to the enemy. In certain circumstances, informing the enemy could be detrimental to military operations. Mobile medical units, for instance, often operate near firing positions. Indicating their position in such circumstances may invite attacks against the military units in the vicinity of the medical units.
- Under Rule 73, notification to the enemy requires no special formalities. The position of the medical units may be transmitted through any reliable and efficient means of communication with the enemy.
- The second sentence of Rule 73 reinforces the principle that the absence of notification does not create an exemption from protection. The obligations contained in Rule 71 exist irrespective of notification (which is optional). Failure to notify increases the risk of collateral damage to the medical units during an attack on military objectives (see Rule 14), but in no way impairs the obligations contained in Rule 71 when these units have been identified. Nor does failure of notification impact upon the obligation of feasible precautions required under the law of international armed conflict (see Section G, in particular Rule 32 and Rule 35).
- Art. 12 (3) of AP/I: “The Parties to the conflict are invited to notify each other of the location of their fixed medical units. The absence of such notification shall not exempt any of the Parties from the obligation to comply with the provisions of paragraph 1.”
- The notification envisaged in Rule 73 is totally different from the notification in Section V (“Aerial Blockade”) of this Manual (see Rule 148 (a) and Rule 149 (a)).