Practice Relating to Rule 4. Definition of Armed Forces
Section A. General definition
The Report on the Practice of Zimbabwe (1998) asserts that the incorporation of Article 43 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I into national legislation by the 1981 Geneva Conventions Act as amended “is evidence of [Zimbabwe’s] view that [it represents] customary international law”.
Zimbabwe’s Constitution (2013) states:
211. Defence Forces
(1) The Defence Forces of Zimbabwe consist of an Army, an Air Force and any other services that may be established under an Act of Parliament.
(2) The Defence Forces are the only lawful military forces in Zimbabwe.
(3) The Defence Forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to the civilian authority as established by this Constitution.
(4) The Defence Forces must be maintained as disciplined military forces.
(5) An Act of Parliament must provide for the organisation, structure, management, regulation, discipline and promotion and demotion of officers and other members and, subject to section 218, the conditions of service of members of the Defence Forces.
The Report on the Practice of Zimbabwe considers that the definitions given in Article 43 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I apply only in the context of an international armed conflict. It states that, for non-international armed conflicts, an attempt at a definition is found in Article 1 of the 1977 Additional Protocol II, which refers to dissident armed forces or other organized armed groups which are under a responsible command. It adds, however:
This definition is subjective and difficult to implement, given that States are generally unwilling to recognize rebel groups and their structures … preferring to deal with them as mere “criminals or bandits”. In Zimbabwe this issue is yet to be addressed in terms of policy and military instruction. It is by no means settled and cannot be regarded as being part of customary law.