By George Grant and Mohammed Elsharif.
Tripoli, 14 October:
The International Committee of the Red Cross has begun a programme to train 160 . . .[restrict]Libyan officers from the army, navy and airforce in international humanitarian law and its application to modern warfare.
The first tranche of 18 officers graduated at a ceremony held at the Ministry of Defence on Thursday, with 20 more due to begin training this week.
The programme will continue until all 160 officers are trained, with 40 from that number to be chosen for a ‘train the trainers’ course to ensure the lessons are taken forward by the armed forces themselves in future.
“The purpose of the programme is to give the officers an introduction to international humanitarian law and codes of conduct during armed conflict”, said Sooade Messoudi, a member of the ICRC team in Tripoli.
“It includes how to legally conduct an offensive, responsibilities under international humanitarian law and proper treatment of prisoners of war. We are also conducting a review of the existing army manual to ensure it includes these rules and responsibilities”.
At Thursday’s graduation ceremony, officers dressed in full uniform exchanged hugs and handshakes as they received their certificates.
“The programme was excellent”, said Colonel Said Khalil, from Benghazi’s Benina airbase. “I didn’t expect it. I am sure that what we have learned can help us to cooperate in building the new Libya.”
Abdullah Ahmed Belal, one of the military representatives also in attendance, underlined the importance of the programme for the Libyan armed forces. “Our main goal is to make the whole military aware of the proper conduct during armed conflict”, he said. “Having officers who understand and apply the rules of international humanitarian law is vitally important.”
The programme follows a Memorandum of Understanding between the ICRC and Chief of Staff Yusuf Mangoush signed on 26 June.
The ICRC has extensive experience in this field, and has worked with various militaries in the Middle East to develop codes of conduct in the past. The ICRC has been providing assistance and guidance on international humanitarian law to the Libyan armed forces since November 2006, with Libya having been a signatory to the 1949 Geneva Convention since May 1956. [/restrict]