Practice Relating to Rule 142. Instruction in International Humanitarian Law within Armed Forces
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) notes that it “shall serve soldiers and civilian personnel of all command levels in training courses, military exercises and in general training”.
It also states:
The four Geneva Conventions and [the 1977 Additional Protocol I] oblige all contracting parties to disseminate the text of the conventions as widely as possible … This shall particularly be accomplished through programmes of instruction for the armed forces … Considering their responsibility in times of armed conflict, military … authorities shall be fully acquainted with the text of the Conventions and the Protocol Additional to them.
The manual further states:
All soldiers of the Federal Armed Forces shall receive instruction in international law. It is conducted in the military units by the superiors and the legal advisers and at the armed forces schools by teachers of law … This instruction has the purpose not only of disseminating knowledge, but also and primarily of developing an awareness of what is right and what is wrong.
Lastly, the manual stresses:
Effective implementation is depending on dissemination of humanitarian law. Providing information about it is the necessary basis to create common consciousness and to further the attitude of the peoples towards a greater acceptance of these principles as an achievement of the social and cultural development of mankind.
Germany’s IHL Manual (1996) states:
All enforcement methods of international humanitarian law are … incomplete without extensive dissemination of the basic principles of international humanitarian law and the personal sense of the individual to take responsibility for their respect.
Referring to common Article 1 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Article 1(1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, the manual states:
It necessarily follows that each soldier of the [German Armed Forces] must know the rules of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts … Therefore, the four Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols oblige all Contracting Parties to disseminate the content of the Conventions in their countries and to incorporate it in the programmes of military education.
Germany’s Law on the Legal Status of Military Personnel (1995) provides: “Soldiers are to be instructed with regard to their duties and rights under … public international law in times of peace and in times of war.”
At the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims in 1993, Germany stated: “International humanitarian law must become the basis for the training of all members of armed forces.”
In reply to a formal question from a member of parliament in 1996, a Minister of State of Germany, referring to Article 83(1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I and Article 19 of the 1977 Additional Protocol II, stated:
The Federal Government supports the dissemination of International Humanitarian Law in all areas and at all levels of state. It hereby fulfils its duties resulting from international public law. The four Geneva Conventions and the two Additional Protocols oblige all contracting parties to disseminate the wording of the Conventions as widely as possible … This shall be done in particular by [providing] training programmes for the armed forces … Military and civil offices shall, in times of an armed conflict [and] with regard to their responsibilit[ies], be entirely familiar with the wording of the Conventions and the Additional Protocols … Since the [coming into] existence of the Bundeswehr
[the Federal armed forces], the transmission of knowledge about International Humanitarian Law has formed an integral part of the training and further education of all soldiers.
The Minister went on to outline the different levels of training provided for the armed forces: troops received instructions as laid down in the Military Manual; trainee sergeants and officers received IHL education as one of the main parts of their training; special training was given to members of the armed forces who participated in UN contingents, conducted immediately before the deployment of the troops; and teachers of law and legal advisers also participated in seminars on IHL, often held in cooperation with international partners. The Minister also listed a number of official regulations and teaching materials used for the education of soldiers.
In 2001, in its second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Germany stated:
807. The protection of children in armed conflicts is guaranteed by article 77 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts and article 4 of the Additional Protocol relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts. Both of these protocols were ratified by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990 and thus became national law. The Federal Government contributes to spreading knowledge about the rules of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts, especially by relevant training in the armed forces. Above and beyond this, it provides general information that is mainly used in training staff and helpers in the medical and other aid organizations.
817. Since the establishment of the Federal Armed Forces, military training in the Federal Republic of Germany has been based on the needs of international humanitarian law. Passing on knowledge in international humanitarian law is a permanent component of the basic and further training of soldiers of all ranks. For officers and non-commissioned officers it is part of the core area. The focus of the training of Federal Armed Forces soldiers in international law is on a practice-related representation. The soldiers are taught about dealing with issues relating to international law using specific examples. The purpose of international law teaching is not just to pass on knowledge, but above all to develop an awareness of right and wrong even in crises and war and to gear the individual soldier’s behaviour to the requirements of international humanitarian law in every situation. The legal advisers, law teachers and law lecturers of the Federal Armed Forces who teach international humanitarian law take part in an international scientific exchange of opinion about international humanitarian law.
In 2007, in a reply to a minor interpellation in the Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament) entitled “Basic law and international law in deployments abroad of the Federal Armed Forces: Treatment of persons taken into custody”, Germany’s Federal Government wrote:
6. In what form and to what extent are or were servicewomen and servicemen informed on the legal status of persons taken into custody, before or during a deployment abroad?
In the context of the contingent training, the servicewomen and servicemen intended for a deployment abroad are instructed on the applicable international and national regulations and instructed on the taking into custody and on the treatment of persons taken into custody. We refer to the reply to question 1. The instruction is carried out by the official of the Legal Affairs Directorate of the Federal Ministry of Defence responsible for operational law Einsatzrechts-Referent/Einsatzrechts-Referentin, by female and male legal advisers, by lecturers of the Centre for Leadership Development and Civic Education in Koblenz Zentrum Innere Führung Koblenz, as well as by specially qualified staff (disciplinary superiors, their deputies, or also by specially trained military police officers). During the instruction, the general and specific provisions regarding detention or arrest in the respective pocket card (“Rules on the application of military force”) are addressed. The same applies to the order of 26 April 2007 on the “treatment of persons [taken into custody] by German servicemen or women during deployments abroad” and the five individual instructions supplementing it (comp. reply to question 1). Practical exercises regarding the taking of persons into custody, for example behaviour at a checkpoint (control of persons, stopping, searching, and detaining, as the case may be), complement the legal training. Also in the context of the training during deployments, servicewomen and servicemen are instructed on the legal status of persons taken into custody. In addition, during the deployment such information can be obtained also from the female or male legal adviser present on the ground.
11. What does the instruction for the training of German security forces in international deployments on the relevant rights anchored in the ICCPR [1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], mentioned by the Federal Government to the UN Human Rights Committee, concretely look like?
On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Defence, the working group “Law” of the Federal Academy for Defence Administration and Defence Technology Arbeitsgruppe Recht der Bundesakademie für Wehrverwaltung und Wehrtechnik
has developed the teaching material, “The civil and political rights of human beings”, which has been integrated into the general and pre-deployment training of the armed forces. It reflects and explains the contents of the ICCPR, specially emphasizing that the members of the Federal Armed Forces need to respect the civil and political rights generally also during peace-making and peace-keeping measures during deployments abroad.
In 2009, in its report to the UN General Assembly on the status of the 1977 Additional Protocols, Germany stated:
The Federal Ministry of Defence is responsible for the implementation of the norms of international humanitarian law within the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr
. As provided for by the law governing the legal status of soldiers, instruction in international humanitarian law and in other international regulations, agreements and commitments constitutes part of the training programmes for all military personnel in the German armed forces. Courses are held by legal advisers, teachers of law and the superior officers responsible. On the basis of this fundamental knowledge, personnel receive further in-depth instruction in this subject as part of their training and education programme, preparing them to be commissioned and non-commissioned officers, commensurate with their respective level of service. Under Zentrale Dienstvorschrift
) 15/1 (Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflicts- Basic Principles), ZDv
15/2 (Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflicts- Manual), [and] ZDv
15/3 (Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflicts- Texts and Documents), soldiers and civilian employees at all command levels have access to the pertinent international treaties. Field cards with specific questions and description of situations supplement this information. Units selected for operations abroad receive extra training on legal components directly related to their mission and their operational area.
In 2010, in reply to a Minor Interpellation in the Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament) entitled “Treatment of child soldiers by the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) during operations abroad”, Germany’s Federal Government wrote:
1. In the regular training of soldiers, how much importance is given to the topic of child soldiers and Germany’s international legal obligations in this respect, and for what ranks are corresponding training modules envisaged (please respond by including the envisaged duration)?
The problem “Conduct towards Child Soldiers” is addressed in the training of all soldiers during lessons on “International Humanitarian Law” which form part of the General Basic Training and, pursuant to the concept “Training for Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management in Preparation of Deployment (EAKK)”, also during training in preparation for deployment as part of the modules on “Basic Approaches to Conflict Prevention and Crisis Mitigation (Legal Bases, Code of Conduct, Conduct as a Solider in Action, Conduct towards the Civilian Population)” and “Basics of Inter-cultural Competence”.
Furthermore legal questions concerning the protection of children in armed conflict are addressed in the training course “International Humanitarian Law and the Conduct of Military Operations” which is offered for members of staff working in the administration of justice, officers providing training and medical officers. Within a two-hour talk on the actors on today’s battlefields the pertinent provisions of the  Convention on the Rights of the Child, the  Optional Protocol [on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict], the  Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols as well as the International Crimes Code are introduced.
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) provides: “The superior has to ensure that his subordinates are aware of their duties and rights under international law.”