Practice Relating to Rule 142. Instruction in International Humanitarian Law within Armed Forces
Spain’s Order 60/1992 on Military Instruction for High-Ranking Officers (1992) includes the subjects “international law of war”, “law of armed conflicts” and “humanitarian principles” in the instruction plan of high-ranking officers.
Spain’s Order 63/1993 on Military Instruction for Other Officers (1993) includes the subjects “the International Conventions of the Hague and Geneva” and “Public International Law” in the instruction plan of the Military Intervention Corps and of the specialized branches of the Army Medical Service, and the subject “International Law and the Law of War” and “the International Conventions of Geneva and the Hague” in the instruction plan of the Military Legal Corps.
Spain’s LOAC Manual (1996) states: “The instruction and dissemination of [IHL] are established as obligatory, so that the State has the duty to introduce it in its programmes of military … instruction.”
Thus, the Ministry of Defence “shall programme courses on the Law regulating Armed Conflicts at different levels for the various Commanding Officers”.
The manual also states: “Law of war training has to be integrated into normal military activity.”
A chapter of the manual devoted to “Dissemination of the Law of Armed Conflict” establishes a detailed programme including instructional methods, guidelines, priorities based on hierarchical levels within the military sector, a general framework for the instruction of the law of armed conflict, norms and models of instruction according to hierarchical levels, a summary of the law of armed conflict for non-commissioned officers, officers and superior officers, model curricula and a model course for the national and international levels.
The manual further stresses: “It is very important to include the Law of War in instruction courses for the military personnel who are going to take part in [peacekeeping] operations.”
Spain’s LOAC Manual (2007) states: “The law of armed conflict contains provisions making the teaching and dissemination of its rules compulsory. Consequently, States are under an obligation to incorporate them in their programmes of military … instruction.”
The manual stipulates that the following measures are to be adopted in peacetime: “Through the Ministry of Defence or the Army General Staff, courses [to disseminate the law of armed conflict] must be planned at different levels to teach officers about the law of armed conflict.”
A chapter of the manual on “Dissemination of the Law of Armed Conflict” provides guidance on instructional methods, teaching aids and types and models of instruction (including practical exercises) to be followed.
Spain’s Royal Ordinances for the Armed Forces (2009) states in an article on duties with regard to international humanitarian law:
Members of the armed forces … must disseminate … in the conduct of any armed conflict or military operation, the international conventions ratified by Spain relating to alleviating the plight of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked [members] of the armed forces, to the treatment of prisoners and the protection of civilians, as well as those concerning the protection of cultural property and the prohibition or restriction of the use of certain weapons.
At the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999, Spain pledged to “continue organizing training courses in international humanitarian law, in cooperation with the Committee of the Spanish Red Cross, for the leaders and officers of the armed forces of Iberoamerican, African and eastern European countries”.
The Report on the Practice of Spain notes that IHL disseminated and taught in the Spanish armed forces includes the rules applicable in both international and internal armed conflicts.
In 2008, in its fifth periodic report to the Committee against Torture, Spain stated: “For the Guardia Civil … [r]egular specialized courses on international humanitarian law and the law of war are … organized in cooperation with the Red Cross and the State Secretariat for Security.”
In 2009, in its written replies to the Committee against Torture concerning its fifth periodic report, Spain stated with regard to the training given to security forces and bodies of the State: “[N]umerous courses are offered at the levels of lifelong learning, refresher training, further training and continuous training, including … [a] [c]ourse on international humanitarian law.”
The written replies further stated: “Members of the security forces and bodies of the State specialized in the struggle against terrorism receive the training mentioned … [above], including … [on] the norms pertaining to human rights and to refugee and humanitarian law.”
In 2010, in its report to the UN General Assembly on the status of the 1977 Additional Protocols, Spain stated:
Article 83 of the first Protocol Additional to the  Geneva Conventions, adopted on 8 June 1977, sets out the requirement to disseminate knowledge about the obligation to protect victims of armed conflicts. Consequently, our military training includes the dissemination of these provisions.
The Royal Ordinances for the Armed Forces, adopted by Royal Decree No. 96/2009 of 6 February 2009 … were a qualitative leap forward inasmuch as they introduced ethics, and, in particular, international humanitarian law, into military operations. An entire chapter of this code … sets out the obligation to … disseminate … the content of the international conventions ratified by Spain relative to the amelioration of the condition of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces, to the treatment of prisoners of war and to the protection of civilian persons, as well as those relative to the protection of cultural property and to prohibitions or restrictions on the use of certain weapons.
In addition, the Ministry of Defence has entered a framework cooperation agreement with the Spanish Red Cross, providing for the implementation of an annual action plan which includes, inter alia, cooperation in the teaching of international humanitarian law by Red Cross personnel in some of the courses mentioned below.
Furthermore, before joining a peacekeeping operation abroad, all members of the Spanish armed forces undergo preparation which emphasizes the precepts of international humanitarian law and includes an analysis of the customs and culture of the deployment area. These are elements of the field manuals distributed to all members of the mission, who also receive a pocket handbook outlining how they should conduct themselves in order to guarantee the protection of victims of armed conflicts.
Regarding military education, the frame of reference for the organization of military education is Act No. 39/2007, of 19 November 2007. Title IV describes education in the armed forces, which is organized as follows:
- Basic military training
- Advanced military training
- Higher studies in national defence
1.1 Basic training for all members of the armed forces
The purpose of basic training is to prepare career members of the armed forces to join the ranks and to train soldiers and sailors for entry into the auxiliary or professional forces.
… [A]ll curricula cover basic law, ethics, military law, international relations, maritime law (for navy units … ) and aeronautical law (for air force units … ), and they all make reference to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.
In addition to their regular courses, students can attend seminars, lectures, colloquiums and courses, on such subjects as international humanitarian law, conducted in cooperation with such organizations as the Red Cross, or courses on these subjects and others of interest in the field of national defence taught in conjunction with public universities.
1.2 Advanced military training and higher studies in national defence
The purpose of advanced military training is to prepare professional members of the armed forces for specialized functions and to equip them with the most up-to-date and broadest possible knowledge for the discharge of their duties, including general education and specialized military degrees.
The purpose of higher studies in national defence is to prepare career officers to perform general staff duties and to train them for the rank of brigadier. Higher studies in national defence cover such areas as peace, security, defence and military policy …
Every year the following courses are offered (as part of either advanced military training or higher studies in national defence) and incorporate aspects of the  Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols:
- Operational military law
- Law of armed conflict for professors of military schools
- Law of armed conflict
- General staff
- Observers for peacekeeping operations
- Peacekeeping operations
- Civil and military cooperation
- Training for the ranks of major and senior non-commissioned officer in the three services
- Preparation for the unified officers’ ranking
- Civil and military cooperation for reservists.
Spain’s LOAC Manual (1996) states: “The commander himself ensures that his subordinates are aware of their obligations under the law of war and respect them.”
The manual also states that “the commander is responsible for proper law of war training” and that “the superior is the normal instructor of his subordinates also for law of war training”.
Spain’s LOAC Manual (2007) states:
[T]he armed forces … are responsible, through their commanders-in-chief, for the detailed implementation of [instruction in] the law of armed conflict and for incorporating the study of this body of law into its military training programmes to ensure that combatants in particular and also medical and religious personnel are familiar with the principles and rules it contains.
The manual also states:
Commanders must ensure that their subordinates are aware of their obligations under the law of armed conflict, by means of an effective training programme that takes into account the level of knowledge required of each subordinate commensurate with their level of responsibility.
The manual further states:
- The law of armed conflict should be included in programmes of military instruction and training.
- Each commander is fully responsible for providing appropriate instruction in the law of armed conflict in his respective area of authority.
- Instruction in the law of armed conflict is therefore an essential part of command activities.
Spain’s Royal Ordinance for the Armed Forces (1978) provides that a soldier “shall know the rights and duties incumbent on him and the penal laws affecting him, which shall be read out and periodically explained at unit level with a view to guiding his conduct and preventing him from committing faults or offences”.
Spain’s Royal Decree Establishing the Spanish IHL Commission (2007) states that this Commission is to “[p]rovide advice on … training of the armed forces in international humanitarian law”.