Practice Relating to Rule 139. Respect for International Humanitarian Law
Belgium’s Law of War Manual (1983) states: “The States signatory to the [1949 Geneva] Conventions have undertaken to take a series of measures to promote respect thereof.”
Belgium’s LOAC Teaching Directive (1996) states: “The general aim to be reached is to ensure in all circumstances full respect for the law of armed conflicts and the rules of engagement by all members of the Armed Forces.”
Belgium’s Teaching Manual for Soldiers states that the purpose of the instruction is “to bring the soldier in an armed conflict to react spontaneously in conformity with the elementary principles of humanity”. The manual also provides the following rule for the combatant: “I must behave like a disciplined soldier and I respect humanitarian rules.”
Belgium’s Royal Decree on the Reorganization of the Interdepartmental Commission on Humanitarian Law (2000) provides:
The Interdepartmental Commission on Humanitarian Law … is reorganised under the name of “Interministerial Commission on Humanitarian Law.”
The Interministerial Commission on Humanitarian Law, hereinafter “the Commission”, is tasked to:
1. Identify and examine the national measures required to implement the rules of international humanitarian law, notifying the federal ministers concerned and submitting to them the relevant proposals;
2. Ensure the follow-up and coordination of the national implementing measures envisaged in Article 1;
3. In its capacity as permanent advisory body, assist the Federal Government, at its own initiative or upon the request of the latter, through studies, reports, opinions, and proposals relating to the development of international humanitarian law.
In 1996, in its third periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, Belgium stated:
Paragraph 1 of article 5 [of the Act of 16 June 1993 concerning the prosecution and punishment of serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and of Protocols I and II of 8 June 1977 Additional to the Geneva Conventions] … includes the general principle of humanitarian law whereby certain basic minimum humanitarian standards must be respected in all circumstances.
In 2007, in a statement before the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa, the deputy permanent representative of Belgium stated, with reference to Somalia: “While stressing the primary responsibility of the Transitional Federal Government [of Somalia], Belgium … recalls [all parties’] obligation to respect international humanitarian law.”
In 2007, in a statement before the UN Security Council on the situation in Somalia, the permanent representative of Belgium stated: “All parties … are duty-bound to … respect international humanitarian law.”
Belgium’s LOAC Teaching Directive (1996) provides that the General Staff of the Forces and the Medical Service “shall give the necessary instructions [to ensure in all circumstances full respect for the law of armed conflicts and the rules of engagement by all members of the Armed Forces]”.
In 2001, in its initial report to the Committee against Torture, Belgium stated:
Paragraph 7 of the Code of Conduct of the Department of Defence (May 1999) also refers to human rights and international humanitarian law:
“7. I undertake … to respect … international humanitarian law in all circumstances.”