Practice Relating to Rule 154. Obedience to Superior Orders
In 2010, within the context of a Training Workshop on Military Criminal Law for Military Judges, Burundi’s Ministry of National Defence and Former Combatants stated:
The CPM [Military Penal Code (1980)] seems to establish the principle of the absolute, mechanical and blind obedience, as if the servicemen should execute the orders received without any discernment, even when the orders were manifestly unlawful. Despite the lack of provision in the CPM attenuating the principle of obedience, there is an exception: “A manifestly unlawful order shall not be executed”.
Indeed, the servicemen shall obey the orders from their superiors but they are responsible for the execution of the missions which are assigned to them. Only the illegality of the order received might allow the subordinate not to execute it. However, if the motivation of illegality is improperly invoked with the aim of evading the execution of an order, the subordinate is subject to criminal and disciplinary penalties for refusal to obey. Thus, manifestly unlawful orders cannot be given to subordinates and the latters may not execute acts which are against the law, the customs of war and international conventions, and which constitute crimes or offences.