Practice Relating to Rule 142. Instruction in International Humanitarian Law within Armed Forces
Colombia’s Directive on IHL issued in 1993 by the Colombian Ministry of National Defence states:
The Ministry of National Defence is issuing instructions intended to intensify the development of training programmes for members of the police in subjects pertaining to respect for human rights and compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law, with the aim of preventing and rectifying conduct that violates those rules.
In Colombia’s Basic Military Manual (1993), the Minister of National Defence defines various priorities, including:
We are trying to firmly establish within the Armed Forces and the National Police a culture and an ethic of respect, and to this end, activities of dissemination, instruction and capacity building with respect to human rights and humanitarian law have been started and developed.
The Minister adds:
The publication today of this Manual is intended to increase the dissemination and application of the instruments of international humanitarian law to which we are party. With it, we are fulfilling the obligation contained in the four Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols to disseminate their content as widely as possible, in time of peace as well as in time of war, and to incorporate their study in the programmes of military instruction.
The manual stresses that, before conflicts occur, there is an obligation “to adopt plans and programmes of dissemination and capacity building through which IHL is made known to … the Armed Forces”. It further states that this obligation to instruct also binds organized armed opposition groups. Lastly, in a chapter dealing with the 1977 Additional Protocol II, the manual states: “It is important to underline the obligation incumbent upon States to organize periodical and systematic instruction on the content of the Protocol, so that the Public Force … can apply and insist on respect for its norms.”
Colombia’s Instructors’ Manual (1999) states that it “aims to serve as a tool, as a guiding instrument by which the instructor presents in a simple form to the soldiers and seamen the minimum rules regarding persons, objects, the wounded and others, in times of peace, war and conflict”.
Colombia’s Decree No. 138 (2005) states:
The Ministry of National Defence must carry out dissemination programmes through the General Command of the Armed Forces and the National Police and must take pertinent measures in order to include the norms on the protection of the Red Cross emblems and other distinctive emblems in the military and police doctrine.
A directive issued in 1995 by the Colombian Ministry of National Defence stated, under the heading “Initial measures”, that “to achieve these objectives the Ministry of National Defence has taken the following action: … Training and instruction in human rights and international humanitarian law within the Armed Forces and the National Police are being substantially increased.”
The directive further stated:
The Armed Forces and the National Police shall draw up, by 30 September 1995, a national programme of training and instruction in human rights and international humanitarian law for all their members, for civilian personnel attached to them and for military Judge Advocates, in coordination with the Human Rights Secretariat of this Ministry.
In addition, the directive stated:
Directors of training schools for the Armed Forces and National Police shall be responsible for the education of their students in human rights and international humanitarian law and shall conduct all the activities necessary for implementation of the national training programme referred to in [Section 4(B)(1) above].
In 2004, in its third periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Colombia stated:
As far as the role of the armed forces is concerned, their commitment to uphold human rights and international humanitarian law has been acknowledged. Consequently, the Government has taken educational, preventive and disciplinary measures that have led to improvements in the behaviour of agents of the State towards citizens. Training in this area has been decisive in improving the military’s performance of its tasks. Colombia is the leader in this field in Latin America: over 120,000 members of the public security forces have received special training in this topic in the last five years.
In 2006, the Government of Colombia stated before the Committee against Torture:
The soldiers undergo training in the region’s Army battalions and in the Navy’s marine infantry training bases for a period of 10 weeks, during which they are trained to protect their districts, special emphasis being placed … on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.