Practice Relating to Rule 142. Instruction in International Humanitarian Law within Armed Forces
Switzerland’s Regulation on Legal Bases for Conduct during an Engagement (2005) states:
4 Respect for and implementation of the legal rules in all types of operation are a command task and an integral part of individual discipline.
8 … All servicemen must know the rules in force for their mission. …
9 Understanding of the ten basic rules of the law of armed conflict is part of the armed forces’ basic readiness and is thus indispensable for all servicemen (see “Ten Basic Rules of the International Law of Armed Conflict”).
151 Understanding of the international law of armed conflict during operations is part of the armed forces’ basic readiness.
169 All military personnel must be familiar with the four principles [distinction, military necessity, proportionality and limitation] in a way that allows them to automatically make the right decision in the heat of battle.
[emphasis in original]
At the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999, Switzerland pledged to “produce learning materials (CD-ROMs) on the law of armed conflicts, with the aim of facilitating instruction carried out by armed-forces commanders, whether of army corps, battalions or brigades” and to “improve the defence ministry’s Website on the international law of armed conflict, in order to disseminate international humanitarian law more broadly”.
In 2009, the Swiss Federal Council created the Interdepartmental Committee for International Humanitarian Law. Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs stated:
The Interdepartmental Committee for International Humanitarian Law
Switzerland is obliged to implement and to further promote International Humanitarian Law at home as well. The Interdepartmental Committee for International Humanitarian Law (ICIHL) fosters and coordinates activities in this area.
The Interdepartmental Committee participates in the training of the Swiss authorities personnel and persons outside the Federal administration in matters of International Humanitarian Law.
In 2010, in its Report on IHL and Current Armed Conflicts, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
The Swiss army carries out the following international courses on the subject of international humanitarian law:
- “Central Role of the Commanderˮ (CENTROC) course every two years since 2004: this seminar, which is addressed to commanders and legal advisors, aims to transmit knowledge on international humanitarian law, human rights law and other legal areas linked to the army. A focus is put on the decisive role of the commander in the application of the law;
- international humanitarian law competition, every two years, alternating with the CENTROC course: a test for commanders and general officers on their knowledge in the legal areas pertinent to military missions;
- international humanitarian law and ethics, every year, for the past 12 years, in collaboration with the International Committee of Military Medicine: this course is addressed to military medical personnel;
- “NATO/Partnership for Peace – Non Commissioned Officers Leadership Coursesˮ …
In addition, the Swiss army also supports international humanitarian law courses organized by other organizations with financial and/or human resource contributions:
- ICRC: Senior Workshop on International Rules Governing Military Operations;
- Geneva Centre for Security Policy: Annual Senior Officers Security and Law Conference;
- International Committee of Military Medicine: regional courses in South Africa and Saudi Arabia for military medical personnel;
- International Institute of International Humanitarian Law of San Remo
: military courses on international humanitarian law.
In 2012, in a statement before the UN Security Council during a debate on women, peace and security, Switzerland’s chargé d’affaires a.i. stated:
3. The Secretary-General calls in the report upon the parties to include training on conflict related sexual violence in the curricula of their peacekeeping troops. Switzerland in its National Action Plan to implement resolution 1325 committed to including conflict-related sexual violence as well as the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in the trainings of all military persons deployed.
In 2012, in its combined second, third and fourth periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Switzerland stated: “International humanitarian law and human rights are compulsory subjects for new recruits to the army. Interactive training modules on CD-ROM have been developed for military training in army camps.”
In 2013, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued the “Strategy on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts”, which states: “In order to ensure that the law protects victims of armed conflicts, it is important that action be taken before conflicts arise. Examples of measures include … adequate training of armed forces”.
The Strategy also states:
One of the obstacles preventing compliance with the normative framework by parties to armed conflicts is the lack of knowledge (or lack of suitable familiarity) with this framework on the part of those called upon to comply with it.
Familiarity with the normative framework must not only be theoretical, but also practical. Each actor involved in an armed conflict must have sufficient awareness of its obligations in order to comply with them. … The normative framework must also be … transposed into doctrine, operational procedures, training and the internal system of sanctions, so that the parties to the conflict are better able to comply.
Lines of action
- Switzerland will share with foreign armed forces its experiences in the transposition of legal principles into military doctrine and the training given to officers and troops.