Practice Relating to Rule 143. Dissemination of International Humanitarian Law among the Civilian Population
In 2009, the Swiss Federal Council created the “Interdepartmental Committee for International Humanitarian Law”. Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs stated:
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 is tasked with the administration/internal exchange of experience and information on International Humanitarian Law and its implementation in Switzerland. It ensures optimum coordination among the Federal authorities and maintains relations with the scientific community, civil society, and other organizations concerned with International Humanitarian Law, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The Interdepartmental Committee participates in the training of the Swiss authorities personnel and persons outside the Federal administration in matters of International Humanitarian Law.
[emphasis in original]
Switzerland’s Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Strategy (2009) states:
3. International Response
Strengthening the normative framework and its instruments of implementation
A number of treaties and other instruments intended to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict have been adopted or have entered into force in recent years. Constant efforts are required to ensure that these instruments are strengthened and disseminated. …
4. Strategic Choices
The FDFA has thus defined three strategic objectives with corresponding specific outcomes for the next four years:
- The normative framework ensuring the protection of civilians in armed conflict is adequate, known and respected by all parties involved
- The normative framework ensuring the protection of civilians in armed conflict is clarified, strengthened and disseminated.
[emphasis in original]
Switzerland’s ABC of International Humanitarian Law (2009) states:
… The States Parties are also required to incorporate the provisions of the Geneva Conventions into their own national legislation and to work for the dissemination of international humanitarian law in peacetime as well as during Armed conflict.
… States are also responsible for disseminating international humanitarian law. …
Promotion of international humanitarian law
… It is therefore important that the actors concerned ensure a higher degree of respect for and implementation of international humanitarian law, in particular through the reaffirmation and the dissemination of the existing rules as well as through the further clarification of some of them.
In 2010, in its Report on IHL and Current Armed Conflicts, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
5 Possible action by Switzerland
The following list offers a glimpse of the initiatives being carried out, or having been recently concluded, that aim to develop or reinforce the content of international humanitarian law:
- Switzerland participates in the dissemination of the particularly pertinent study of the ICRC on the state of customary international humanitarian law;
- … Switzerland is working on the elaboration of a strategy that aims to ensure the broadest dissemination and implementation of the [Air and Missile Warfare] manual[.]
[footnotes in original omitted]
In 2012, in a speech on the occasion of Public International Law Day, the head of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs stated:
To be complete, I must add that Switzerland does not forget that, as a High Contracting Party to the  Geneva Conventions, it, too, has the obligation to implement and disseminate international humanitarian law on its own territory. In 2009, the Federal Council, following insofar the example of numerous countries, decided to establish an Interdepartmental Committee for International Humanitarian Law. Switzerland thus reinforces further its commitment on this matter with the support of the Swiss Red Cross.
In 2013, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs stated in the “Strategy on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts”:
Axis 1 – Achieve greater compliance with the normative framework
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 the dissemination of information on international humanitarian law, …
Area of activities 2
Ensure greater understanding of the normative framework
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. It is also important that information about the normative framework be disseminated within the population. …
Lines of action
Switzerland will implement and disseminate information on international humanitarian law on its own territory through the Interdepartmental Committee for International Humanitarian Law (ICIHL). The ICIHL will be responsible for ensuring the exchange of experiences and information on international humanitarian law within the Federal Administration and how it is implemented in Switzerland.