MANILA, Philippines?Ground commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will have their own handbook, too, to guide them during armed conflicts, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
To mark the first International Humanitarian Law Day as a national legislation in the country on August 12, the ICRC is handing over copies of a guidebook that would help commanders in battle zones brush up their knowledge on laws governing armed conflicts.
In a briefing on Monday at the Philippine Red Cross Headquarters, ICRC program officer Evecar Cruz-Ferrer disclosed that the handbook?"Law of Armed Conflict, Essentials for Commanders"?is a condensed version of the International Human Law.
The IHL is a set of rules placing restrictions on the use of weapons and methods of warfare. It also safeguards people who are not, or no longer participating in hostilities.
Although the concept of creating a national legislation on IHL was first officially brought up during the 8th meeting of the Philippine Red Cross IHL Committee in October 2001, the bill was only signed into law on Dec. 11, 2009.
Approved by the 14th Congress, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the bill into Republic Act 9851 or "An Act Defining and Penalizing Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity."
The law defines and penalizes serious violations of IHL or war crimes, genocides and other crimes against humanity and also allows national courts, particularly regional trial courts to exercise jurisdiction over such crimes.
Human rights advocates have labeled the military as the top violator of human rights because of its combat operations against "enemies of the state."
"The handbook is a guide to the ground commanders of the AFP ... what they should do before, during and after combat operations in order for them and their troops to avoid violating the IHL," said Ferrer in an interview following the briefing.
But Ferrer stressed that the ICRC, as neutral organization, was not in the business of publicly identifying notorious violators of human rights.
As a joint effort, the ICRC and the AFP came up with the 22-page handbook as a way of raising the awareness of soldiers, particularly those involved in combat operations across the country, on the provisions of the IHL.
Initially, about 1,800 copies of the handbook will be distributed to military ground commanders, said Ferrer. Another set of handbook, consisting of roughly 200 pages, will also be distributed on Thursday to soldiers.
The AFP announced last week that the "Soldier's Handbook on Human Rights" will be issued to some 5,000 to 10,000 troops.
The turnover of the handbooks is just among the many activities the ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense is slating to celebrate IHL Day.