The creation of the International Committee of Military Medicine

The First World War was an unspeakable disaster for the people and the armed forces. Belgium was one of the theatres of these atrocities, and the civilian and military casualties of the fighting were enormous. It was also a terrible time when new weapons and toxic munitions made their appearance: war, in addition to its disastrous consequences, became "dirty"...
Civilian and military medical personnel from all disciplines, both allied and enemy, had to make considerable efforts to try and save as many of the wounded and sick as possible, using the knowledge available at the time, which was often sketchy when faced with injuries and conditions that no-one had ever heard of. They were all admirable, working for the good of their patients with the meager resources and knowledge they had in the face of these devastating pathologies. 
Honour be to them...

Once peace had returned, even though they were still facing an influenza pandemic whose consequences were to be just as dramatic, military medical personnel from many countries felt the need to share their experience and knowledge through scientific congresses where everyone could learn from each other.
In 1920, on the occasion of the 28th Congress of the Military Association of Medical Officers of the United States of America (AMSUS), Commander Jules VONCKEN, surgeon, met Captain William Seaman BAINBRIDGE, MD (US NAVY) whom he had met on the plains of the Yser... Both of them were fully convinced of the need to learn from the experiences of all those providing care, and they came up with the idea of creating a neutral forum, in the form of an international organisation of Armed Forces medical services, where all the participants could exchange views and deal freely with health aspects and medical ethics in a military environment.


The ICMM is an international and intergovernmental organization, constituted by more than 100 States.

Major General Jules VONCKEN, MD

Captain William S. BAINBRIDGE,


Back in Belgium, Jules VONCKEN convinced his military authorities and, with the support of His Majesty the King of the Belgians, ALBERT I, the Standing Committee for International Congresses of Military Medicine and Pharmacy (CPCIMPM) was officially founded on 21 July 1921. The eight founding countries were Belgium, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, France, and Brazil. The first congress of military medicine and pharmacy was held in Brussels in July 1921.
Since then, forty-three world congresses of military medicine have been organised.

International Assembly of the Health Services of the Armies, Navies and Air Forces.
Liège - BELGIUM      18-21 July 1930

10th World Congress, 1939, USA

Major General Jules VONCKEN, MD, and the Committee

The Committee recognised the central role that Belgium had played in its establishment and, in its Statutes, assigned the seat and functions of Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General to the Belgian Military Medical Service.

Major General Jules VONCKEN, MD was Secretary General from 1921 to 1976... when he died on the way to his office in the Liège Military Hospital, where the Committee had its headquarters. He was succeeded by Colonel Jules MATHIEU, MD; Lieutenant-Colonel Marcel COOLS, MD; Colonel Jacques SANABRIA, MD; Major General (ret) Roger VAN HOOF, MD; and Major General (ret) Geert LAIRE, MD, MSc.
In addition to his duties within the Belgian Military Medical Service and the ICMM, Major General Jules VONCKEN, MD was the architect of important work on moral and ethical aspects at the international level. Among other things, he was involved in revising the protocols of the Geneva Conventions in 1948. His knowledge, commitment, and reputation as a fervent defender of human values made him a major contributor to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The CPCIMPM evolved into the Comité International de Médecine Militaire (CIMM), which became an international and inter-governmental organisation.

Major General
from 1921 till 1976

from 1976 till 1982

Marcel COOLS, MD
from 1982 till 1998

from 1998 till

Major General
from 2011 till 2019

Major General
from 2019 till 2022

Date of admission as Member of ICMM:

ICMM is an international and intergovernmental organization, constitued by members, observers and correspondents. All countries which are Members of the United Nations may become Members of the ICMM, by accepting its Statutes.

Admission is validated when the application is approved by the General Assembly.

By clicking this link, you can see the list of Member States and their dates of admission to the ICMM.


The World Congresses of ICMM:

To further the accomplishment of its missions, the ICMM shall organize periodically, World Congresses of Military Medicine.
A Congress will be held in an ICMM Member State, normally on a biennial basis.

The objectives of the World Congresses are four-fold:
• Encourage official and personal relations between the Directors of the Military Medical Services, through an association (according to the desire of the organizing country) representatives of the Intergovernmental, International and Non-governmental Organizations the objects of which have the following points in common with the ICMM.
• Draw up a detailed study of contemporary knowledge or studies related to military medicine.
• Disseminate scientific information on the activities of the military medical services, and
• Supply a framework and the facilities to hold the statutory meetings of the ICMM (General Assembly, Working Group, etc.).

1921 - Brussels, Belgium
1923 - Rome, Italy
1925 - Paris, France
1927 - Warsaw, Poland
1929 - London, UK
1931 - The Hague, The Netherlands
1933 - Madrid, Spain
1935 - Brussels, Belgium
1937 - Bucharest, Romania
1939 - Washington, USA
1947 - Basel, Switzerland
1949 - Mexico, Mexico
1951 - Paris, France
1954 - Luxemburg, Luxemburg
1957 - Belgrade, Yugoslavia
1959 - Teheran, Iran
1963 - Caracas, Venezuela
1965 - Bangkok, Thailand
1969 - Dublin, Ireland
1971 - Brussels, Belgium
1973 - Bucharest, Romania
1976 - Lima, Peru
1980 - Santiago, Chile
1982 - Athens, Greece
1984 - Baghdad, Iraq
1986 - Marrakech, Morocco
1988 - Interlaken, Switzerland
1990 - Madrid, Spain

1993 - Istanbul, Turkey
1994 - Augsburg, Germany
1996 - Beijing, China
1998 - Vienna, Austria
2000 - Espoo, Finland
2002 - Sun City, South Africa
2004 - Washington, USA
2005 - St Petersburg, Russia
2007 - Tunis, Tunisia
2009 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2011 - Abuja, Nigeria
2013 - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
2015 - Bali, Indonesia
2017 - New Delhi, India
2019 - Basel, Switzerland
2022 - Brussels, Belgium


Interlaken, Switzerland 1988

Madrid, Spain 1990

Washington, USA 2004

Saint-Petersburg, Russia 2005

Tunis, Tunisia 2007

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2009

Abuja, Nigeria 2011

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 2013

Bali, Indonesia 2015

New Delhi, India 2017

Basel, Switzerland 2019

ICMM activities include:

  • Military medicine as a whole,
  • Survey of techniques for assessing aptitudes,
  • Survey medicine,
  • Mass medicine,
  • Dentistry,
  • Military pharmacy,
  • Veterinary sciences,
  • Administration, organization and logistics of medical care missions.

The present goals include:

  • To maintain and to strengthen the bonds between all medical services of Member States,
  • To promote medico-military scientific activities,
  • To participate in the development of the medical and medico-military setting of humanitarian operations.

ICMM Reference Centre for Education on International Humanitarian Law and Ethics:

An ICMM Reference Centre for Education on International Humanitarian Law and Ethics has been created in 2011.
Founded by Switzerland, headed by Swiss officers, it is working under the authority of the Secretary General of the ICMM, under the supervision of the Chairman of the Scientific Council of the ICMM.

For more detailed information on the history of the creation of the ICMM Reference Centre for Education on International Humanitarian Law and Ethics, please visit the following website, www.melac.ch



Letter 1920 - Invitation to the 1st Congress in 1921 (text in french)

Report of the 1st Congress in 1921 (text in french)

Foundation of the Permanent Committee 1921 (text in french)

General Assembly of the 3rd Congress in 1925 (text in french)

Copy of documents showing the origin of International Congresses (March 1938) (text in french)

WHO 1952 

Agreement ICMMP-WHO 1952

ICMM recognition by the United Nations

WHO: Approval - 5th World Health Assembly (text in french)

Memorandum of understanding ICMM-WHO 2001

Updated agreements between WHO and the ICMM 2004 ( text in french)

Agreement ICMM-OIE 2006

Memorandum of understanding ICMM-UNAIDS 2009

Memorandum of understanding ICMM-CISM 2014

Memorandum of understanding ICMM-ICRC 2016

Memorandum of understanding ICMM-WVA 2017

Memorandum of understanding ICMM-WMA 2017

Memorandum of understanding ICMM-FIP 2019