Practice Relating to Rule 143. Dissemination of International Humanitarian Law among the Civilian Population
Belgium’s Law of War Manual (1983) provides:
States signatory to the [1949 Geneva] Conventions undertook to take a series of measures to promote the respect thereof.
These measures can be summarized as follows:
1) the widest dissemination possible of the content of the Conventions among the civilian population.
At the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999, Belgium pledged “to implement training programmes in international humanitarian law targeted at those who are most directly concerned by the application of and respect for this body of law, namely the judiciary …”.
The Report on the Practice of Belgium notes that, although the Belgian Government does not itself conduct dissemination activities for the civilian population, it actively supports such activities undertaken by the Belgian Red Cross, by institutions of higher education and by NGOs.
In 2006, in its written replies to the questions raised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child with regard to Belgium’s initial report under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Belgium stated:
Since 1998, a programme called “Damage limitation” has been teaching pupils in upper primary school about the consequences of armed conflict and encouraging them to be civic-minded, show solidarity and adopt humanitarian values.
The programme is specifically aimed at teaching children and teenagers about the protection they enjoy as vulnerable persons under international humanitarian law. It tries to show the harm caused to children by conflicts, giving specific examples (child soldiers, light weapons, anti-personnel landmines, etc.).
The programme, which is run in the French Community in Belgium and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has the support of the Belgian Department of Development Cooperation.