Practice Relating to Rule 16. Target Verification
Colombia’s Operational Law Manual (2009) states:
3. Fundamental guarantees and IHL principles
These guarantees have been embodied in principles that guide behaviour during situations of hostilities and must be observed throughout all military operations:
- Principle of precautions in attack: … [T]he Constitutional Court has held that “among the main expressions of the principle of precaution are: (i) the obligation of the parties to the conflict to take all feasible measures to verify that the targets are military objectives; … ”
4. Rules for the conduct of hostilities
b. Precautions in attack and against the effects of attacks
The principle of precaution requires that military operations be carried out with constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects. The following rules, which must be taken into account when planning a military operation, derive from this principle:
- Take all feasible precautions to verify that the targets are military objectives[.]
[footnotes in original omitted]
The manual also states:
4. Rules of engagement
The rules of engagement are a set of simple rules that determine the levels, intensities and types of use of force. It is a set of rules that integrate human rights and IHL obligations into operational language and establishes the circumstances in which combat may be engaged and thus limit the use of force.
a. Rules of engagement for land combat
These rules govern the conduct of operations in scenarios of hostilities against precise military objectives related to organized armed groups.
Rules of engagement for land combat
1. Force may be used against a military objective or a legitimate target whenever: … It is identified as a military objective or a legitimate target, at the moment of using arms.
The set of definitions applicable to the rules of engagement system is presented below.
(i) Definitions for rules of engagement for land combat … :
- Identification of the objective:
In order to use force, it is necessary to verify that the military objective or the legitimate target to be attacked reasonably coincides with that previously established in the operational order.
In 2007, in the Constitutional Case No. C-291/07, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
The precautionary principle is the cornerstone of a number of specific rules which are all considered to have attained customary status and to be applicable in internal armed conflicts … Among these rules is … the obligation of the parties to a conflict to do everything feasible to verify that targets are military objectives.
[footnote in original omitted]