Malaysia: officers study application of IHL at SWIRMO 2012

20-09-2012 Interview

Senior military officers are to gather in Kuala Lumpur from 7 to 13 October 2012 for the “Senior Workshop on International Rules governing Military Operations 2012” (SWIRMO 2012). Participants will share experiences and learn more about the international law applicable to military operations. SWIRMO 2012 director Raoul Forster explains.

Why is SWIRMO held every year?

The ICRC is active in connection with virtually every current armed conflict and situation of violence. Despite the legal restrictions on the use of force, too many people entitled to protection under international humanitarian law and human rights law are attacked. Violations of IHL and human rights law occur too frequently. Hence the need to share experiences and best practices, every year, so that the armed forces can carry out their duties while obeying the law.

How does the workshop link in with the ICRC’s other work with weapon bearers?

The ICRC engages in dialogue with weapon bearers on specific operations and encourages them to integrate the law into their operations. These are the two “keys” that give us access to those who are suffering and who have no other protection against the effects of fighting.

It is the nature of the experiences shared that makes SWIRMO distinctive. We motivate the armed forces and raise their awareness of international law, with the intention that they transpose their legal obligations into measures that are practical, comprehensible and realistic for all combatants.

Why does the ICRC take an interest in the rules of military operations?

Abiding by the rules governing military operations is simply a question of fulfilling a State's treaty obligations. Those armed forces that make it a point of honour to do so scrupulously will earn greater legitimacy and respect in an international community that is increasingly concerned with mitigating the worst effects of war.

What is the benefit of gathering participants from so many diverse backgrounds?

SWIRMO combines a brief recapitulation of international law, exercises on decision-making processes, and a forum for discussion. This structure enables participants to share experiences and best practices for encouraging and ensuring respect for the applicable law during military operations.

We ask governments to send senior officers who are closely involved in military operations, because it is these people who have to implement humanitarian law on the ground.
The diversity in the backgrounds of those officers contributes to the success of the workshop by ensuring a wide range of operational experience.

What do participants expect from SWIRMO 2012?

Officers have repeatedly expressed a need for the articles of the different legal instruments to be made more accessible and to be translated into concrete mechanisms, clear actions and precise rules. They tell us that this is how we can guide them in the decisions they have to make and can influence the conduct of soldiers in the field, ensuring that the armed forces accomplish their mission while complying with the law.


Raoul Forster 

Raoul Forster