Practice Relating to Rule 52. Pillage
Colombia’s Basic Military Manual (1995) provides that it is prohibited “to steal personal property” of non-combatants, as well as “to plunder the property and belongings” of the civilian population.
Colombia’s Instructors’ Manual (1999) recalls that theft is prohibited.
Colombia’s Operational Law Manual (2009) states that
4. Rules for the conduct of hostilities
a. Prohibition of indiscriminate attacks and [notion of] protected persons
For its part, the  Additional Protocol II to the  Geneva Conventions adds to these prohibitions … pillage … . All these prohibitions, even if more specific [in Additional Protocol II], can also be derived from common article 3 [to the Geneva Conventions].
c. Restrictions on the means and methods
The means and methods of warfare that can be used are limited. …
… [A]mong the methods that are prohibited under IHL, it is important to underline the following ones:
- the prohibition of pillage[.]
[footnotes in original omitted]
Colombia’s Military Penal Code (1999) provides for a prison sentence for “anyone who, in combat operation, appropriates movable property, without any justification, for his own profit or the profit of a third person”.
Colombia’s Penal Code (2000) imposes a criminal sanction on “anyone who, during an armed conflict, despoils … a protected person”.
In 2007, in the Constitutional Case No. C-291/07, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
Taking into account … the development of customary international humanitarian law applicable in internal armed conflicts, the Constitutional Court notes that the fundamental guarantees stemming from the principle of humanity, some of which have attained ius cogens
status, … [include] the prohibition of pillage.
[footnote in original omitted]
In 2010, in the Diego Vecino and Juancho Dique case, the Justice and Peace Chamber of Colombia’s High District Court of Bogotá convicted two members of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia) of several crimes committed against the civilian population. The Court held:
V.2.6.1. Thefts committed in Mampuján
112. In the indictment, the Office of the Attorney General stated that, on 10 March 2000, members of the Montes de María y Norte bloc of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia entered the town of Mampuján, assembled the inhabitants and, through the use of threats, ordered them to immediately displace. They then seized goods from the village shop, as well as objects from some of the inhabitants.
V.2.6.2. Thefts committed in Isla Múcura
119. Similarly, [according to a] criminal complaint … , on 19 April 2003, … about 30 armed men entered Club Cien in Isla Múcura wearing uniforms and identified themselves as members of the Navy. They said it was a routine search and subsequently proceeded to disarm them, seized arms, jewellery and cash.
120. The evidence provided by the Prosecution regarding this fact, although limited, is sufficient to prove that not only was the population displaced but that its property was also taken, as had occurred in certain previous cases registered on 10 and 11 March 2000. …
144. In summary, these demobilized individuals are convicted of grave breaches of international humanitarian law because, as participants in an armed conflict, they attacked the civilian population by displacing it from its territory, taking the lives of non-combatants and pillaging its property after the incursion. However, owing to the limitation imposed by the principle of legality and considering the date when the acts took place, the offences are considered as ordinary crimes. [The accused] are also convicted of crimes against humanity because their punishable conduct was not isolated.
[footnotes in original omitted]
In 2010, in the El Iguano case, the Justice and Peace Chamber of Colombia’s High District Court of Bogotá convicted a member of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia) of several crimes committed against the civilian population. The Court stated:
To meet the objectives established by the commanders of the organization, that is, “to combat its natural enemy: the guerrillas” and their supposed collaborators or sympathizers and to carry out executions pursuant to the misnamed “social cleansing” policy, [members of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia] resorted to certain criminal acts such as … theft … in the areas where they were present.
With regard to extortions and arbitrary contributions, the Court stated:
[I]t is possible to conclude that the … extortions or arbitrary contributions attributed to the accused have a functional link with the internal armed conflict and, therefore, must be classified as war crimes[.]
The Report on the Practice of Colombia refers to a draft internal working paper of the Colombian Government which stated that pillage and plunder are prohibited by IHL.