Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
Section B. Attacks against combatants
Colombia’s Circular on Fundamental Rules of IHL (1992) states: “Neither the civilian population, as such, nor individual civilians may be made the object of attack. Attacks may only be directed against military objectives.”
Colombia’s Instructors’ Manual (1999) states that it is a rule of combat to “fight only combatants”.
In reaction to an article in the press, the Office of the Human Rights Adviser in the Office of the President of Colombia stated:
In a non-international armed conflict, civilians can take up arms and form armed rebel groups, putting themselves outside the laws of the country. They thus become combatants which the State can attack and fight against with perfect legitimacy. As a result, such rebels are criminals and combatants at the same time.
Colombia’s Defensoría del Pueblo (Ombudsman’s Office), with respect to “convivir”, considered that:
These organizations, nurtured by the national government itself, contribute nothing to the immunity of the civilian population, since they involve citizens in the armed conflict, divesting them of their protected status and making them into legitimate targets of attack … In the view of the Ombudsman’s Office, the operation of the Convivir
cooperatives means that civilians participate directly in the armed conflict, thereby becoming combatants.
The Report on the Practice of Colombia states:
In Colombia, communal guard and private security services have been created under the name “convivir
”. These services take the form of rural security cooperatives composed of individuals whom the State has authorized to bear arms, and who collaborate with the authorities by providing information to the public security forces concerning the activities of the guerrilla organizations. There is a public debate over the question of whether the members of these services should be considered civilians or combatants.