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Sierra Leone: Promoting international humanitarian law

14-02-2002 News Release 02/07

Over the years the ICRC has been helping Sierra Leone, a State party to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, to raise awareness of humanitarian law and principles among soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and other groups. Over 8,000 soldiers were familiarized with basic rules for behaviour in combat under a British short-term training programme which ended in September 2001.

As a first step towards training RSLAF instructors in the law of war, a " train-the-trainers " course was recently held at the RSLAF training centre in Benguema, 33 km north-east of Freetown. The course, in which 55 junior and senior officers from various units, battalions and brigades took part, was organized by the ICRC under the auspices of the RSLAF and the International Military Advisory and Training Team.

The aim was to impart the knowledge and skills required to instruct private soldiers and non-commissioned officers in the basics of international humanitarian law. The participants were encouraged to give trial lectures and taught to use simple teaching tools such as flip charts and case studies. The drills and field training exercises conducted to translate theory into practice were the high point of the course, which the ICRC considers as part of a weaning process aimed at reducing its role in disseminating the law of war within the RSLAF and allowing those who have been trained to take over. At the invitation of battalions and brigades, however, the ICRC will continue to give ad-hoc briefings on its role as an impartial and neutral humanitarian organization in situations of armed conflict.

While the course was being held in Bengue ma, two RSLAF officers were granted scholarships to follow an advanced military training course on the law of armed conflict at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, in San Remo, Italy. The ICRC hopes that they will then draft a syllabus on the subject to be included in all training courses held at the RSLAF training centre.