Practice Relating to Rule 27. Religious Personnel
Colombia’s Operational Law Manual (2009) states:
ii. Religious personnel
“Religious personnel exclusively assigned to religious duties must be respected and protected in all circumstances. They will lose their protection if they commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful to the enemy.”
This rule is applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts and to both civilian and military personnel. Intentionally directing attacks against personnel displaying the distinctive emblems of the  Geneva Conventions is both a crime under domestic law and a war crime.
“Religious personnel” refers to personnel “who are exclusively engaged in the work of their ministry and attached to a party to the conflict, to its medical units or transports or to a civil defence organization”. The assignment may be either permanent or temporary.
Religious personnel lose their special protection when they engage in hostile acts outside their humanitarian function or commit acts harmful to the enemy.
[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 the following: … (v) religious personnel[.]
Colombia’s Emblem Law (2004) states: “Religious personnel that form part of the armed forces benefit from the same protection as medical personnel”.
Colombia’s Decree No. 138 (2005), which implements the Emblem Law (2004), states: “All authorities and persons in Colombia must protect the … religious personnel of the public forces [i.e. the armed forces and the police].”
In 2007, in the Constitutional Case No. C-291/07
, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated that the obligation in the 1977 Additional Protocol II to respect and protect religious personnel “has attained customary status, mainly due to its impact on State practice and on conflicts in the last decades”.
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 law 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 definition:
… For the purposes of this article and the other rules of the present Title, it is understood that protected persons according to international humanitarian law include:
4. Medical or religious personnel.
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: … 3) medical or religious personnel, [pursuant to] article 9 of the  Additional Protocol II.
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 a protected person. Article 135 [of Colombia’s Criminal Code], in accordance with international humanitarian law, considers as protected persons … religious personnel.