Without prejudice to the status of medical personnel under the relevant provisions of the law of international armed conflict, members of the crew of medical aircraft must not be captured by the enemy and must be allowed to carry out their mission.
- Rule 87 is based on the fourth paragraph of Art. 39 of GC/II and on the fifth paragraph of Art. 22 of GC/IV. It is a logical consequence of the obligation to respect and to protect medical personnel and to allow them to carry out their mission (see Rule 70).
- According to Rule 80 (a), medical aircraft flying over areas physically controlled by the enemy or over the contact zone may be ordered to land or to alight on water to permit inspection. Medical aircraft must obey any such order. However, following inspection, the aircraft may continue its flight with its occupants, if its purely medical nature is confirmed. According to Rule 87, it is prohibited in such circumstances to capture medical personnel which includes crew members, even though the latter do not carry out medical activities.
- In the case of medical aircraft, the reason why members of the aircrews are covered by the definition of “medical personnel” is even more glaring than in the instance of personnel involved in other medical transports, and this in view of the fact that the medical aircraft’s activities are entirely dependent on the operation of professional aviators to move it around. For the definition of medical personnel, see Commentary on Rule 71.
- Under certain circumstances described in Rule 80 (c), a medical aircraft may be seized. In these circumstances, its occupants must be treated in conformity with the relevant rules of the law of international armed conflict. As a consequence, medical personnel cannot be captured but may be retained insofar as the state of health and the number of POWs require. See also paragraph 3 of the Commentary on Rule 80 (c).
- The special status of medical personnel insofar as capture is concerned is not applicable in non-international armed conflicts.
- Fourth paragraph of Art. 39 of GC/II: “Medical aircraft shall obey every summons to alight on land or water. In the event of having thus to alight, the aircraft with its occupants may continue its flight after examination, if any.”
- Fifth paragraph of Art. 22 of GC/IV: “Such aircraft shall obey every summons to land. In the event of a landing thus imposed, the aircraft with its occupants may continue its flight after examination, if any.”
- Art. 33 of GC/III, see fn. 461.