Practice Relating to Rule 31. Humanitarian Relief Personnel
Colombia’s Operational Law Manual (2009) states:
iii. Humanitarian relief personnel
“Humanitarian relief personnel must be respected and protected.” Their safety is an indispensable condition for “the delivery of humanitarian relief to civilian populations in need that are threatened with starvation”.
This rule is applicable to both international and non-international armed conflict. Intentionally directing attacks against personnel involved in humanitarian missions is a war crime, as long as such persons are entitled to the protection accorded to civilians. (In this sense, members of the armed forces are not entitled to this protection.)
In addition to the prohibition of attacks, “practice indicates that the harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention of humanitarian relief personnel are prohibited”. State practice also requires that parties to a conflict ensure the safety of humanitarian relief personnel.
[footnotes in original omitted]
The manual also states:
4. Rules of engagement
(i) Definition for rules of engagement for land combat …
- Protected persons
: Protected persons are the following: … (vii) humanitarian relief personnel[.]
Colombia’s Decree No. 138 (2005) states: “All authorities and persons in Colombia must protect the … relief personnel and the persons who permanently or temporarily carry out humanitarian tasks in situations of armed conflict or natural disasters”.
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 the special protection of certain categories of persons and property particularly vulnerable to the effects of war. The main categories of persons and objects specially protected [include] … humanitarian relief personnel.
In 2010, in the El Iguano case, the Justice and Peace Chamber of Colombia’s High District Court of Bogotá convicted a member of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia) of several crimes committed against the civilian population. The Court stated:
[T]he protected persons mentioned in article 135 of the  Penal Code [on the prohibition of killing protected persons during an armed conflict] fall into these categories: … 3) … any other person who is a protected person under the four  Geneva Conventions], their  Additional Protocols or any other convention on this subject matter that is going to be ratified.
[footnote in original omitted].