Practice Relating to Rule 5. Definition of Civilians
Colombia’s Instructors’ Manual (1999) defines the term civilian as “any person who does not belong to the Armed Forces and who does not participate in a levée en masse
The manual adds: “Civilians must be understood as those who do not participate directly in military hostilities (internal conflict, international conflict).”
In 2007, in the Constitutional Case No. C-291/07, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
For the purpose of the principle of distinction and its application to internal armed conflicts, the term “civilian” refers to persons fulfilling the following two conditions: (i) they are not members of the armed forces or irregular armed organizations involved in an armed conflict; and (ii) they do not take part in hostilities individually as “civilians” or “individual civilians” or collectively as “civilian population”. The definition of “civilians” or “civilian population” is similar throughout international humanitarian law applicable in internal armed conflicts. For example, the same definition of “civilian” has been used in case law to refer to certain conduct such as a war crime or a crime against humanity.
… [D]etermining the civilian status of a person or a population shall depend on an analysis of the specific facts based on which such status is invoked rather than on a mere classification in the abstract, taking into account ... that the notion of “hostilities”, like the term “armed conflict”, goes beyond the specific time and place where actual fighting occurs and must be applied in accordance with the criteria of space and time delimited by international humanitarian law.
[footnote in original omitted]