Rule 143. Dissemination of International Humanitarian Law among the Civilian Population
Rule 143. States must encourage the teaching of international humanitarian law to the civilian population.
Summary
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law. The practice collected does not indicate that any distinction is made between teaching international humanitarian law applicable in international armed conflicts and that applicable in non-international armed conflicts.
State authorities
The 1906 and 1929 Geneva Conventions required States to take the steps necessary to make the conventions known to the population at large.[1]  The 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property require States to include the study of international humanitarian law in their programmes of civilian training “if possible”.[2]  The qualifier “if possible” was not included to make civilian instruction optional but was added to take into account the possibility in federal countries that the central government has no authority in educational matters.[3] 
Additional Protocol I requires States to disseminate international humanitarian law as widely as possible and, in particular, to “encourage the study thereof by the civilian population”.[4] 
States’ obligation to encourage the study of international humanitarian law by the civilian population or to disseminate international humanitarian law as widely as possible so that it becomes known to the civilian population is stated in many military manuals.[5]  In addition, the legislation of several States provides that the civilian population must receive instruction in international humanitarian law or includes provisions that directly aim to fulfil this requirement by introducing such training programmes.[6] 
In practice, many States facilitate courses in international humanitarian law, often through the provision of funds to organizations such as the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society. According to the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, National Societies “disseminate and assist their governments in disseminating international humanitarian law; they take initiatives in this respect”.[7]  In addition, more than 60 States have created national committees on international humanitarian law whose tasks usually include dissemination and promotion.[8]  An increasing number of institutions of higher education have started to offer courses in international humanitarian law in recent years.[9] 
In addition, the UN Security Council, UN General Assembly and UN Commission on Human Rights, as well as the Council of Europe and the Organization of African Unity, have called on or invited States to disseminate international humanitarian law or to promote the teaching thereof to the civilian population.[10] 
The International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent has adopted several resolutions by consensus requiring States to encourage the teaching of international humanitarian law to the civilian population.[11]  Similarly, the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims in 1993 urged all States to “disseminate international humanitarian law in a systematic way by teaching its rules to the general population”.[12] 
No official contrary practice was found. At the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999, a large number of States from different parts of the world pledged to review the curricula of educational and training establishments with a view to integrating international humanitarian law into their courses or to intensifying dissemination to the population in general.[13] 
Additional Protocol I further introduced the obligation of civilian authorities who, in time of armed conflict, assume responsibilities in respect of the application of international humanitarian law, to be fully acquainted therewith.[14]  While States are required to encourage the teaching of international humanitarian law to the entire civilian population, many governments emphasize training for civil servants, in particular law enforcement personnel (judiciary, police, prison personnel).[15]  Several resolutions of the UN Security Council and UN Commission on Human Rights support this requirement.[16]  It was also recalled in resolutions of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.[17]  Other States emphasize the importance of teaching international humanitarian law to youth, including in secondary education.[18]  Resolutions adopted by the International Conference of the Red Cross and the Diplomatic Conference leading to the adoption of the Additional Protocols have similarly emphasized this aspect of dissemination.[19] 
Armed opposition groups
Article 19 of Additional Protocol II states that the Protocol “shall be disseminated as widely as possible”,[20]  and this provision binds armed opposition groups.[21]  This rule is contained in other instruments pertaining also to non-international armed conflicts.[22] 
In a resolution on respect for human rights in armed conflicts adopted in 1972, the UN General Assembly called upon all parties to armed conflicts “to provide instruction concerning [the international humanitarian rules which are applicable] to the civilian population”.[23] 
Although practice with respect to the obligation of armed opposition groups to encourage the teaching of international humanitarian law to the civilian population under their control is limited, it is important that “information concerning [rules of international humanitarian law] be given to civilians everywhere, with a view to securing their strict observance”.[24]  In practice, armed opposition groups have frequently allowed the ICRC to disseminate international humanitarian law to civilians living in areas they controlled.

[1] 1906 Geneva Convention for the Protection of the Wounded and Sick, Article 26 (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 40, § 611); 1929 Geneva Convention for the Protection of the Wounded and Sick, Article 27 (ibid., § 612).
[2] First Geneva Convention, Article 47 (ibid., § 613); Second Geneva Convention, Article 48 (ibid., § 613); Third Geneva Convention, Article 127 (ibid., § 613); Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 144 (ibid., § 613); Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, Article 25 (ibid., § 614).
[3] See United Kingdom, Military Manual (ibid., § 636); Jean. S. Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the First Geneva Convention (ibid., § 708).
[4] Additional Protocol I, Article 83 (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 615).
[5] See, e.g., the military manuals of Australia (ibid., § 622), Belgium (ibid., § 623), Canada (ibid., § 624), Cameroon (ibid., § 625), Colombia (ibid., § 626), Germany (ibid., § 627), Hungary (ibid., § 628), New Zealand (ibid., § 629), Nigeria (ibid., § 630), Sweden (ibid., § 631), Spain (ibid., § 632), Tajikistan (ibid., §§ 633–634) and United States (ibid., §§ 636–637).
[6] See, e.g., the legislation of Azerbaijan (ibid., § 639), Croatia (ibid., § 640), Peru (ibid., § 641), Russian Federation (ibid., §§ 642–643) and Slovakia (ibid., § 645).
[7] Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Article 3(2) (ibid., § 617).
[8] ICRC, Advisory Service, Table of National Committees on International Humanitarian Law, 30 June 2002.
[9] See, e.g., the reported practice of Algeria (ibid., § 647), Argentina (ibid., § 650), Belgium (ibid., § 656), Democratic Republic of the Congo (ibid., § 660), Cuba (ibid., § 662), Egypt (ibid., § 663), India (ibid., § 669), Indonesia (ibid., § 671), Iraq (ibid., § 672), Kuwait (ibid., § 674), Malaysia (ibid., § 675), Peru (ibid., § 680) and Uruguay (ibid., § 683).
[10] See, e.g., UN Security Council, Res. 1265 (ibid., § 688); UN General Assembly, Res. 3032 (XXVII) (ibid., § 689) and Res. 3102 (XXVIII) (ibid., § 690); UN Commission on Human Rights, Res. 1995/73 (ibid., § 497); Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, Rec. 945 (ibid., § 691); OAU, Council of Ministers, Res. 1526 (LX) (ibid., § 692).
[11] See, e.g., 19th International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. XXX (ibid., § 697); 22nd International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. XII (ibid., § 699); 23rd International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. VII (ibid., § 701); 25th International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. VIII (ibid., § 702).
[12] See International Conference for the Protection of War Victims, Final Declaration (ibid., § 703).
[13] See the pledges made at the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent by Argentina (ibid., § 648), Belarus (ibid., § 654, Belgium (ibid., § 655), Chile (ibid., § 657), China (ibid., § 658), Colombia (ibid., § 659), Cuba (ibid., § 661), Greece (ibid., § 665), Holy See (ibid., § 667), Iceland (ibid., § 668), Indonesia (ibid., § 670), Mozambique (ibid., § 677) and Slovenia (ibid., § 681).
[14] Additional Protocol I, Article 83 (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 615).
[15] See the practice of Belgium (ibid., § 655), Colombia (ibid., §§ 321–322 and 396), Germany (ibid., §§ 627 and 664), Greece (ibid., §§ 665–666), Iceland (ibid., § 668), Malawi (ibid., §§ 432 and 676), Mozambique (ibid., § 435), Nigeria (ibid., § 630), Peru (ibid., § 363), Philippines (ibid., § 341) and Sweden (ibid., § 631).
[16] See, e.g., UN Security Council, Res. 1265 (ibid., § 688); UN Commission on Human Rights, Res. 1994/85, 1995/72 and 1996/80 (ibid., § 496) and Res. 1995/73 (ibid., § 497).
[17] See, e.g., 22nd International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. XII (ibid., § 699); 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Res. I (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 705).
[18] See, e.g., the statements of Argentina (ibid., § 648) and Greece (ibid., § 665) and the reported practice of Argentina (ibid., § 650).
[19] See, e.g., 15th International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. IX (ibid., § 695); 19th International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. XXIX and XXX (ibid., §§ 696–697); 23rd International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. VII (ibid., § 701); Diplomatic Conference leading to the adoption of the Additional Protocols, Res. 21 (adopted by 63 votes in favour, 2 against and 21 abstentions) (ibid., § 700).
[20] Additional Protocol II, Article 19 (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 287).
[21] Yves Sandoz, Christophe Swinarski, Bruno Zimmermann (eds.), Commentary on the Additional Protocols, ICRC, Geneva, 1987, § 4909.
[22] Memorandum of Understanding on the Application of IHL between Croatia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, § 13 (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 40, § 618); Agreement on the Application of IHL between the Parties to the Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, § 4 ( ibid., § 619).
[23] UN General Assembly, Res. 3032 (XXVII) (adopted by 103 votes in favour, none against and 25 abstentions) (ibid., § 689).
[24] UN General Assembly, Res. 3102 (XXVIII) (adopted by 107 votes in favour, none against and 6 abstentions) (ibid., § 690).