United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 142. Instruction in International Humanitarian Law within Armed Forces
The UK Military Manual (1958) notes:
Violations of the law of war have often been shown to have been the deeds of subordinates who acted through ignorance or excess of zeal or the result of orders issued by superiors who acted either in ignorance or disregard of the laws of war. Care must therefore be taken that all ranks are acquainted with the laws of war and that they endeavour to observe them. Under the 1949 [Geneva] Conventions the parties are bound, both in time of peace and in war, to disseminate the text of the Conventions in their countries and to include the study of them in their programmes of military instruction.
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) states that the manual “is designed for use by personnel of all ranks who need to study or give instruction in the law of armed conflict”.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
Enforcement of the law of armed conflict can involve a wide variety of measures. “Enforcement” is taken here to mean action to ensure observance of the law and also action that may be taken following alleged or actual violations. Action aimed at effective enforcement of the law can include, but is not limited to:
a. Disseminating knowledge of the law within the armed forces, training and equipping forces in accordance with legal requirements and establishing an effective system for taking legal considerations into account in military planning and decision-making.
The manual further states:
The manner in which dissemination is done is left to the states themselves and may be by means of orders, courses of instructions, commentaries or manuals. There is a specific requirement to instruct medical personnel, chaplains and those responsible for handling prisoners of war and the administration of protected persons. There is a general requirement to disseminate to the armed forces as a whole. Any military or civilian authorities with responsibility for applying the conventions or protocol must be fully acquainted with the text.
The UK Ministry of Defence has produced a training video for UK soldiers containing a summary of basic principles of IHL.
In 2004, in reply to a question concerning the status of detainees in Iraq, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated:
The British Armed Forces are fully aware of their obligations under international law. They are given thorough mandatory training courses which include specific guidance on handling prisoners of war. All personnel must attend refresher training every year.
Before going to Iraq all personnel are briefed on the Rules of Engagement and procedures for dealing with prisoners of war or other detainees. Each combat unit is required to have senior non-commissioned officers trained in handling prisoners of war. And units which are responsible for the routine handling of detainees conduct further specialist training.
In 2004, in a written answer to a question concerning, inter alia, instructions on the treatment of prisoners and detainees in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, stated:
All British forces personnel in Iraq have the authority to detain persons who pose a threat to their safety or security and are, therefore, briefed in prisoner handling. This includes guidance that prisoners should be treated, at all times, fully in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
In 2004, in a written answer to a question concerning, inter alia, the occupation of Iraq and compliance with international humanitarian law, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated:
Members of the United Kingdom Armed Forces and contractors are liable under both UK and international law for their conduct while on operations in Iraq. As such, military personnel are fully informed of their responsibilities and obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, not only through training received prior to deployment, but also through specific standard operating procedures.
In 2004, in a written answer to a question concerning, inter alia, measures to ensure respect for the prohibition on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in Iraq, the UK Minister of State for Defence stated:
Members of the United Kingdom armed forces are liable under both UK and international law for their conduct while on operations in Iraq. As such, military personnel are fully informed of their responsibilities and obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, not only through training received prior to deployment, but also through specific Standard Operating Procedures. All UK military personnel deploying to Iraq receive an Aide Memoire card on the Law of Armed Conflict, which clearly states that prisoners, detainees and civilians must be treated with dignity and respect, and must not in any way be subject to abuse, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.
In 2004, in a written answer to a question concerning, inter alia, instructions to members of the armed forces and other United Kingdom personnel in Iraq, the UK Foreign Secretary stated:
The UK armed forces are fully aware of their obligations under international law. They are given thorough mandatory training, which includes specific guidance on handling prisoners of war. All personnel must attend refresher training every year. Other UK personnel going to Iraq who are likely to be involved in activities that require an understanding of these international obligations are also given appropriate guidance.
In 2005, in a written answer to a question concerning, inter alia, the government’s assessment of its “responsibility towards Iraqi civilians under the Geneva Conventions”, the UK Minister of State for Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence, stated:
We take great care to ensure that civilians are protected and that our obligations under the Geneva Conventions are met. All personnel serving in Iraq are fully briefed on the Law of Armed Conflict and appropriate measures are taken to avoid loss of civilian life or property.
In 2005, in a reply to a question concerning, inter alia, instruction in international humanitarian law and international human rights law for members of the UK armed services, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, stated:
Obligations imposed upon the United Kingdom by international humanitarian law are covered within Her Majesty’s Armed Forces through instruction and training in the Law of Armed Conflict (LoAC). All new entrants to the Armed Forces, of all ranks, receive training on LoAC during initial training and specialist training courses. Such training has been delivered throughout the past four years. On entry into productive service Army and Royal Marines personnel renew this training annually as part of their individual training directives.
Prior to deployment to an operational theatre, all personnel receive pre-deployment training (PDT), either collectively or as individuals. Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel receive specific training on LoAC during PDT as, unlike their Army and Royal Marine counterparts, they do not receive such training on an annual basis. All personnel receive an additional theatre-specific operational law brief and cultural awareness training as part of PDT.
In addition, officers receive enhanced packages during their career development and through attendance at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, where they receive education on the analysis of international law, the role of ethics and their impact on military operations.
International human rights law is not taught as a subject in its own right to service personnel. However, all service personnel are subject to their respective service disciplinary codes and will be dealt with by their commanding officers or (depending on the gravity of the offences) by courts martial for breaches overseas of service discipline or the commission of criminal law offences contrary to the law of England and Wales. The object of service disciplinary law has always been to maintain discipline within the Armed Forces and thereby both to guarantee respect from the local population overseas for the behaviour of service personnel and to help maintain operational effectiveness.
Service personnel receive annual common core skills training, part of which relates to live armed guarding duties in peacetime within the United Kingdom. The law of self-defence is an essential part of that training and seeks to impart the basic principle that only reasonable and proportionate force may be used where a necessity of defence arises. The teaching, which is given partly by video and partly by instructors, is in line with Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 and supporting case law. Section 3 comprises the basis for the use of force in most peace-keeping operations conducted by HM forces overseas.
In 2006, in a written answer to a question concerning “what training is being given to British troops to ensure that they respect the rights of civilians in Iraq”, the UK Minister of State for Armed Forces stated:
All service personnel receive training on the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) during their initial training. It ranges from up to two hours of training for soldiers, through to eight hours of training for junior officers, including a practical exercise on search, arrest and detention. While LOAC and its implications are first introduced during initial training, it is recognised that this is a very complex topic for the inexperienced and requires continual reinforcement during productive service. Therefore, the content and frequency of the training in productive service is appropriate to rank, responsibility and force readiness. Specifically, all army and RM [Royal Marines] personnel are required to undertake annual refresher training in LOAC each year as part of their Mandatory Annual Training Tests programme. LOAC training includes instruction on the treatment of combatants, POWs and civilians, as well as rules of engagement, the Law of Self Defence and emphasises that only reasonable and proportionate force may be used where a necessity of defence arises. Additional and enhanced LOAC training is also provided, again related to rank and role of the individual, in command and staff courses for selected SNCOs and officers.
Prior to deployment on operations all personnel undertake pre-deployment training, which includes LOAC and theatre-specific operational law and cultural awareness briefings. These lessons are also reinforced during in-theatre arrival briefings. Units and personnel specifically detailed to undertake prisoner handling/detainee duties undertake 10 days of specialist training, both theoretical and practical, under the control of the Provost Marshal (Army).This training has been subject to International Committee of the Red Cross and British Red Cross observations, and we have engaged both organisations to ensure UK planning for treatment of detainees is appropriate.
In addition to LOAC training, Service personnel are aware that under the Service Discipline Acts, they are subject to English criminal law wherever they are serving. This provides that any conduct on operations which would constitute a criminal offence if committed in England, can be prosecuted by courts-martial.
In 2006, in response to a question concerning, inter alia, “documents relating to the training and guidance provided to the armed forces on the treatment of detainees and civilians”, the UK Government stated:
Joint Service Publication 383 The Joint Service Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict (2004), from which the training provided to the Armed Forces on the Law of Armed Conflict derives, is published by Oxford University Press in both hardback and softback copy. The doctrine on Prisoner of War, Internees and Detainees (JDP 1-10) and the Aide Memoire on the Law of Armed Conflict (JSP 381) are also both unclassified and are in the public domain. Together these documents provide the framework for related training provided to the armed forces. The fact that they are in the public domain provides transparency in terms of the common standards and the legal framework within which UK armed forces operate. Other documents that remain classified do so for reasons of operational security.
In 2007, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the United Kingdom stated:
55. We seek to provide all new entrants to the armed forces, both officers and other ranks, with training on the law of armed conflict (LOAC) during initial training and specialist training courses. Such training, given in part to discharge the duties of the United Kingdom as a State party to the Geneva Conventions and to the Additional Protocols thereto, has been delivered across the Services throughout the past four years. On entry into productive service, Army and Royal Marines personnel renew this training at least annually, at a level and frequency that is appropriate to rank, role and force readiness. In addition, officers receive enhanced packages during their career development and through attendance at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, where they receive education on the analysis of international law, the role of ethics and their impact on military operations.
56. Prior to an operational deployment to an operational theatre, all personnel are expected to receive pre-deployment training (PDT), either collectively or as individuals, to allow them to apply the principles of LOAC to the specific operational theatre. In addition, all personnel receive an additional theatre-specific operational law brief and cultural awareness training as part of PDT.
57. Joint Doctrine Publication (JDP) 110:
“Prisoners of War, Internees and Detainees” was published in May 2006. This provides high level joint doctrinal guidance on how to deal with persons who fall into the hands of the British Armed Forces during military operations.
In 2008, the UK Army published the Aitken Report, which investigated cases where members of the British Army were alleged or proven to have mistreated or killed Iraqi civilians outside the context of immediate combat operations in 2003 or early 2004. The Aitken Report stated:
Context in Iraq
The business of equipping soldiers with the skills they require to meet the demands which the Nation demands of them is expensive in time, effort and money. To make best use of those limited resources, the Army provides generic training for all its people to prepare them for war (which it calls adaptive foundation training); and it supplements that training with theatre-specific, pre-deployment training to those units and individuals destined for particular operations, delivered by the Operational Training and Advisory Group (OPTAG). In the case of Iraq in 2003, the bulk of the training provided for the first three waves of troops deployed into theatre (that is, those who fought the war and began the process of nation rebuilding, and those who replaced them throughout 2003) was targeted at war-fighting skills. In the particular areas of arrest and detention, extant Army policy was not used to provide sufficient guidance to prepare our people for all the challenges they actually faced. The training packages, plus the doctrine that underpinned them, were (correctly) founded on the Law of Armed Conflict, but based largely on a conventional war scenario. They described in detail the manner in which prisoners of war were to be treated, but made scant mention of the treatment of civilian detainees – the group which, as it happened, our people were much more concerned after the formal cessation of hostilities in April 2003. Regimental Police (usually charged with running unit detention centres in Iraq) were only specifically trained in the running of unit guard rooms in barracks, and had little preparation for handling civilian prisoners. This omission in training was despite the recent experiences in Kosovo in June/July 1999 when civilians were initially detained in unit-run detention facilities, before expert help from the Military Provost Staff was later introduced. Furthermore, it was not until 2004, after we became aware of the allegations of abuse, that all soldiers deploying to Iraq were given specific instruction on the correct handling of detainees (as part of their pre-deployment training), and that formal direction was given to troops in Iraq that hooding should cease. Notwithstanding that formal proscription, specific direction had also been given in theatre that hoods were not to be used in detention centres as early as March 2003.
In 2008, in its written replies to the issues raised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child with regard to the UK initial report under the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the UK stated:
The UK Armed Forces do not routinely train all people on the  Optional Protocol [on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict] specifically, but some personnel will receive training on areas addressed by it, for example those involved in handling prisoners of war, internees and detainees. Guidance to Service personnel on the involvement of children in armed conflict exists in the form of appropriate doctrine, policy and training. Reference to the Optional Protocol is made in the Joint Service Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict (JSP 383) and Joint Doctrine on Prisoners of War, Internees and Detainees (JDP1-10) addresses the handling of juveniles and children. The UK is required by international law to ensure that the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) is included in training programmes for the Armed Forces. The impact of Human Rights law and the UK’s corresponding treaty obligations, are treated generically in the Armed Forces LOAC Training Policy (2007DIN06-07). Members of the Armed Forces receive training on LOAC shortly after joining and regularly throughout their careers. While military codes of conduct and rules of engagement make no specific reference to the Optional Protocol, prior to deployment on operations all Service personnel receive training in the application of LOAC appropriate to the theatre and nature of the operation on which they are to deploy.
In 2009, in response to a question by a Member of the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence wrote:
All members of the armed forces receive training on the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) shortly after joining and regularly throughout their careers. The UK armed forces do not routinely train all personnel on the  Optional Protocol [on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict] specifically, but personnel involved in handling prisoners of war, internees and detainees receive training which addresses the handling of juveniles and children.
In 2009, in response to a question in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence wrote:
Aspects of the  Geneva Convention are applied throughout military training and will be bolstered before deployment to an operational theatre by further mandatory training, common across all the Services. Irrespective of the theatre to which a person is deploying, specific training based on the Geneva Convention as applied to UK law must be fulfilled. This training includes: compliance with operational law, such as the legal basis for operations, the law of armed conflict, the application of the rules of engagement, the use of force, prisoner handling, understanding the powers of stop and search and the powers of arrest; culture and language training, including cultural awareness; firepower training, including identifying and engaging targets and reacting to fire control orders; and protection training, including procedures for challenging and reaction to direct and indirect attack.
All deployed personnel are issued a rules of engagement card, which specifies exactly the aspects of the law that allows them to conduct operations and react to hostile action.
Role specific training that covers the pertinent application of the Geneva Convention is also undertaken. For example, dedicated prisoner handling teams and medics are briefed in depth of their responsibilities that may be in addition to those usually held.
In 2010, in its closing submissions to the public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Baha Mousa and the treatment of those detained with him by UK armed forces in Iraq in 2003, the UK Ministry of Defence stated:
12. The treaties setting out rules of IHL are supplemented by rules of customary international law (CIL), i.e. rules which are recognized as binding by States, even though they do not appear in treaty texts. … [I]n relation to the rules described below the Government accepts that they reflect CIL. It is suggested that the rules which are of most relevance to this inquiry are:
12.22. … States and parties to the conflict must provide instruction in international humanitarian law to their armed forces
[emphasis in original]
In 2010, in a written answer to a question in the House of Commons about the IHL training of armed forces personnel deployed to areas of conflict, the UK Secretary of State for Defence stated:
In addition to annual Law of Armed Conflict training, all Service personnel are required to complete mandatory pre-deployment training. An element of these training activities is specific to the rules of engagement for a given location and the requirements and responsibilities for compliance with the  Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols. Service personnel will not be deployed to an area of conflict without knowing how they may engage an enemy and what international laws their actions are subject to.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
Whilst ignorance of the law is not generally accepted as a defence, the first step to enforcement of the law of armed conflict must be to ensure as wide a knowledge of its terms as possible both within the armed forces and outside.
The manual further states:
Parties to a conflict are obliged to instruct military commanders to prevent breaches of the law of armed conflict and ensure that their subordinates know of their obligations under that law. This provision is based on the principle that an effective disciplinary system to prevent breaches is the best way of ensuring compliance with the law of armed conflict.