Practice Relating to Rule 47. Attacks against Persons Hors de Combat
Colombia’s Circular on the Fundamental Rules of IHL (1992) states: “It is prohibited to kill or injure an adversary who … is hors de combat
Colombia’s Directive on IHL (1993) considers an “attack against a person hors de combat
” as a punishable offence.
Colombia’s Operational Law Manual (2009) states:
3. Fundamental guarantees and IHL principles
One of the main expressions of customary international humanitarian law is the existence of fundamental guarantees. In this respect, the Constitutional Court has recalled as fundamental guarantees the following ones:
(6) the prohibition of attacking persons hors de combat.
4. Rules for the conduct of hostilities
a. Prohibition of indiscriminate attacks and protected persons
Article 48 of the  Additional Protocol I to the  Geneva Conventions expressly enshrines the principle of distinction …
From the application of this principle derives a set of rules that on the one hand prohibit attacks against protected persons and objects and on the other hand allow the use of force against persons and objects not protected by IHL, since this principle helps to determine, for example, when a person can be a military objective.
As far as persons are concerned, common article 3 to the Geneva Conventions establishes that the following are protected … :
(ii) Members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms; and
(iii) Persons placed hors de combat.
c. Restrictions on the means and methods
The means and methods of warfare that can be used are limited. …
… [A]mong the methods that are prohibited under IHL, it is important to underline the following ones:
- the prohibition of attacking persons who are recognized as hors de combat
[footnotes in original omitted]
The manual also states
4. Rules of engagement
(i) Definitions for rules of engagement for land combat …
- Protected persons: Protected persons are:
(iii) those who have laid down their arms;
(iv) those who are hors de combat
Colombia’s Penal Code (2000) imposes a criminal sanction on anyone who, during an armed conflict, refuses to give quarter or attacks persons hors de combat
In 2007, in the Constitutional Case No. C-291/07, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
The principle of distinction affords protection not only to civilians, but also to a broader category of “non-combatants”, persons who have participated in hostilities and have been placed hors de combat
... The protection of persons hors de combat
is provided for in Article 3 Common to the  Geneva Conventions and Article 7 of their  Additional Protocol II and is a rule of customary law.
[footnote in original omitted]
The Court further held that “under customary law, … persons hors de combat
who take a direct part in hostilities shall lose the protection afforded by the principle of distinction if and for such time as they participate in the conflict”.
(footnote in original omitted)
The Court also stated: “Just as in the case of ‘civilians’, persons hors de combat
lose the protection provided by the principle of distinction whenever they take a direct part in hostilities if and for such time as this participation lasts.”
(footnote in original omitted)
The Court also held: “The principle of distinction is complex and encompasses a number of treaty and customary norms applicable in internal armed conflicts, in addition to, in many cases, enjoying ius cogens
status. These rules [include] … the prohibition to attack persons hors de combat
In 2010, in the Fuentes Montaño case, the Criminal Appeals Chamber of Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice revised the first and second instance judgments to qualify as murder of protected persons the crime of which the defendant had been convicted. The Court held:
The murder of protected persons became part of domestic legislation through Article 135, contained in Title II of Law No. 599 of 2000 [Colombia’s Penal Code], under the heading “Offences against persons and objects protected under international humanitarian law”. The article contains the following definitions:
… For the purposes of this article and the other rules of the present Title, it is understood that the term ‘protected persons’ according to international humanitarian law includes:
3. Wounded, sick and shipwrecked persons who are hors de combat.
6. Combatants who have laid down their weapons owing to capture, surrender or other similar cause.
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: … 2) combatants who have surrendered or are, for whatever reason, hors de combat
. The protection of persons hors de combat
is provided for in article 3 common to the  Geneva Conventions and in article 7 of the  Additional Protocol II.
Colombia’s Circular on the Fundamental Rules of IHL (1992) states: “It is prohibited to kill or injure an adversary who surrenders.”
Colombia’s Penal Code (2000) imposes a criminal sanction on anyone who, during an armed conflict, commits acts aimed at leaving no survivors or at killing the wounded and sick.
In a case against the State relative to the takeover of the Palacio de Justicia by guerrillas in 1985, a Colombian administrative court cited a document of the Colombian Ministry of Defence stating that a commander should “respect the life of the enemy who offers to surrender”.
In 2010, in its Directive No. 11 providing guidance for judicial attorneys and disciplinary officials regarding the crime of murder of protected persons, Colombia’s Attorney General stated:
[The] passive subject [of the crime of murder of protected persons is] any person who has the status of protected person. Article 135 [of Colombia’s Criminal Code], in accordance with international humanitarian law, considers as protected persons … the wounded, sick and shipwrecked who are hors de combat
, … [and] combatants who have laid down their arms.