Practice Relating to Rule 143. Dissemination of International Humanitarian Law among the Civilian Population
Colombia’s Basic Military Manual (1995) states that, before conflicts occur, there is an obligation “to adopt plans and programmes of dissemination and capacity building through which IHL is made known to … the civil society (… public servants, students and the community in general)”.
In a chapter dealing with the 1977 Additional Protocol II, the manual further states:
It is important to underline the obligation incumbent upon States to organize periodical and systematic instruction on the content of the Protocol, so that … civil society in general can apply and insist on respect for its norms.
Colombia’s Decree No. 138 (2005) states:
The Ministry for Social Protection must continue its programmes of disseminating international humanitarian law, in particular the norms that specifically concern the medical services, through the faculties of health science, the regional health bodies and through publications directed at the general public.
At the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999, Colombia solemnly pledged to “promote and spread knowledge of international humanitarian law through training courses for all sectors of Colombian society and through general education programmes for trade schools, universities and schools”.
In 2004, in its third periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Colombia stated:
A learning strategy aimed at communities has been introduced to put human rights values at the centre of the response by civil society to violations. The aim is to ensure the continuity of programmes designed to promote, publicize and ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.
In 2008, in its fourth periodic report to the Committee against Torture, Colombia stated:
[W]ork has been done on such lines of action as training in the application of IHL to the medical profession for military and health personnel and the civilian population in respect of the relevant rights, duties, obligations and rules protecting the exercise of the medical profession … ; and use of the media to raise awareness of the role of the medical profession, health workers and health infrastructure.
In 2008, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Colombia stated:
6. The State agencies and units concerned have publicized the [2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict] in order to familiarize people with it and thereby contribute to its implementation …
69. As Colombia is a democratic, participative and pluralistic State based on the rule of law, the Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for promoting the effective exercise of human rights through the following integrated actions: … (c) Dissemination and promotion of international humanitarian law.
192. In January 2006, the General Command of the Armed Forces asked military academies to put forward proposals for strategic campaigns to encourage mass demobilization and the prevention of forced recruitment by illegal armed groups.
193. In response, the artillery academy devised a strategy involving an hour-long weekly show to be broadcast by the Alternativa Estéreo radio station located in the school’s facilities in the Cantón Norte garrison of Bogotá. This show would be designed to convey institutional messages on the prevention of the forced recruitment of children and adults.
194. In addition, three different leaflets were designed to encourage children to say “no” to forced recruitment and to report any such attempts.
198. In addition, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of the Procurator-General, together with local authorities, have worked to disseminate the standards set out in the Optional Protocol. On each anniversary of its entry into force, civil society organizations and State bodies join together to publicize its provisions and commemorate the ratification of the Protocol by the Government of Colombia.
236. Various training and awareness-raising activities have been organized. These initiatives have pointed up the need for further training activities of this sort, in view of the lack of knowledge that exists on the part of civil servants, indigenous leaders and organizations, and members of non-governmental organizations about the rights of the child, and especially the rights of children demobilized from illegal armed groups.
237. Accordingly, over the past two years the following activities related to the issue of unlawful recruitment have been carried out:
(a) Nine training workshops for public employees, community leaders and heads of NGOs working in municipalities where exposure and vulnerability to the threat of child recruitment are highest were held … ;
(b) Two specialized booklets have been designed and published. The first focuses on the rights of children and young persons and includes an analysis of the situation of children and young persons throughout the country. The second booklet focuses on the collective and comprehensive rights of indigenous peoples (unpublished);
(c) The posters and the teaching manual concerning the legal road map for indigenous peoples have been reprinted;
(d) A booklet on the general-purpose legal road map (for the non-indigenous population) has been designed and printed.
In 2009, in their National Plan for Human Rights Education, the Ministry of National Education, the Ombudsman’s Office of Colombia and the Presidential Program for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of Colombia stated:
Firstly, it is necessary to affirm that States have the obligation to provide human rights education, pursuant to the rules of international human rights law (IHRL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) relating to the protection of human rights. …
Therefore, States are obliged to provide human rights education and to ensure that human rights education is provided, as well as to respect the different human rights education initiatives that might emerge. This is a general obligation addressed to all inhabitants of a country. In addition to this general obligation, several IHRL and IHL instruments refer to specific obligations related to the education and training of public officials, so as to ensure that the treaties are thoroughly applied within the respective States and that the rights provided for in these international instruments are protected.
These obligations derive, among others, from the following international legal instruments on human rights and international humanitarian law:
- International humanitarian law
The four 1949 Geneva Conventions (which entered into force for Colombia in May 1961 and were approved by Congress through Law No. 5 of 1960), in articles 47, 48, 127 and 144, respectively, oblige States to incorporate the teaching of international humanitarian law (IHL) into their military, and if possible civilian, training programmes. The same international [obligation] of States was reiterated in article 83 of the 1977 Protocol I and article 19 of the 1977 Protocol II additional to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Therefore, the 192 States Parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions have undertaken to ensure that the rules of IHL are known to the population as a whole and that their military commanders, especially those responsible for protecting and assisting victims of war and armed conflict, are aware of and apply the rules of IHL.
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The National Plan also states:
In view of the conditions in the country, the human rights education process also includes education in IHL, which regulates armed conflicts. This training is … essential … for the civilian population to know about the rights and guarantees to which they are entitled in case these rules are violated.
Regarding existing public policies on the matter, the Plan states: “[P]rogress has been made in carrying out institutional communication campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of respecting human rights and international humanitarian law.”