Practice Relating to Rule 42. Works and Installations Containing Dangerous Forces
Colombia’s Basic Military Manual (1995) considers that “abstaining from attacks against works and installations … containing dangerous forces” is a way to protect the civilian population.
Colombia’s Penal Code (2000), under the heading “Attacks against works and installations containing dangerous forces”, provides for the punishment of anyone “who, at the occasion and during armed conflict, without any justification based on imperative military necessity, attacks dams, dykes, electrical or nuclear power stations or other installations containing dangerous forces, which are clearly marked with the conventional signs”. The Code provides for even harsher punishment in case such attack should lead to important losses or damage.
In 2007, in the Constitutional Case No. C-291/07, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
International humanitarian law, in its treaty and customary form applicable in internal armed conflicts, provides for special protection to certain categories of persons and property particularly vulnerable to the effects of war. The main categories of persons specially protected [include] … installations containing dangerous forces.
In reaction to an article in the press, the Office of the Human Rights Adviser of the Presidency of the Colombian Republic stated:
In the example of the dam cited by the author of the article in La Prensa
, it is very clear that government troops may attack it in order to dislodge the guerrillas. However, the crux of the matter is how this should be done to ensure that the attack, which is otherwise lawful, does not cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering. Obviously, it would not occur to any sensible military officer to bomb the position with high-power explosives which would destroy the dam wall and cause a deluge that would sweep away the inhabitants of the basin of the tributary feeding the dam.
In 2006, in the Constitutional Case No. T-165/06, the First Appeals Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
[The principles of distinction, limitation and proportionality] are found throughout IHL. Regarding the protection of victims in international or non-international armed conflicts, they materialize in concrete rules, such as … [the one] that: … binds the parties to a conflict to make every effort not to locate military objectives in the vicinity of dangerous works or installations.
[footnote in original omitted]