Practice Relating to Rule 4. Definition of Armed Forces
Section A. General definition
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers):
I.1. Armed forces
The armed forces of a Party to a conflict consist of all organized armed forces, groups and units which are under a command responsible to that Party for the conduct of its subordinates, even if that Party is represented by a government or an authority not recognized by the adverse Party.
They are subject to an internal disciplinary system which ensures respect for the law of armed conflicts.
I.4. Special forces
Numerous armies have special forces. Generally, they are very specialized units, employed far behind enemy lines for incursions, reconnaissance operations or sabotage missions. They can also be used for internal security tasks, such as combating hostage-taking or terrorism. These units are part of the armed forces in the same way as those described above. During operations, they must be recognizable as combatants, by their uniforms, their insignia. Special forces who operate in civilian attire or dressed in the uniform of the enemy can be punished. Their members nevertheless have the right to a fair trial and must be treated in a manner equivalent to prisoners of war for the whole time of the judicial proceedings.
In Book IV (Instruction of heads of division and company commanders), the Teaching Manual provides:
I.2.5. Militias, volunteer groups and organized resistance movements
In certain cases, a Party to a conflict can have armed groups which fight on its behalf without forming part of its armed forces. These groups can fight behind the enemy lines or in occupied territory. The partisans and the combatants of the Résistance which fought in occupied territory, in the Soviet Union and in France during World War II, are examples of these groups.
Members of militias, volunteer corps and organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and participating in operations in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, are combatants, provided that they:
- are commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
- have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
- carry arms openly;
- conduct their operations in accordance with the LOAC.
The militias, volunteer corps and organized resistance movements must “belong” to a Party to a conflict in the sense that they are recognized by that party as combatants on its behalf or in its support.