El Salvador Takes First Place in International Humanitarian Law Competition
By Lorena Baires/Diálogo November 15, 2016The Salvadoran military's constant preparation on how to apply human rights regulations propelled the team of officers and cadets from the Salvadoran Armed Forces (FAES, per its Spanish acronym) to first place in the Regional Competition on International Humanitarian Law for Military Academies. The competition was held October 11th-12th at the “Capitán General Gerardo Barrios” Military School in San Salvador. Twenty officers and cadets from the armed forces of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic participated in the event. The competition is a new effort to enhance the military academies’ knowledge of this branch of law, which is fundamentally based on the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the additional protocols of 1977. The intellectual contest was organized by the Central American Armed Forces Conference (CFAC, per its Spanish acronym), the Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and El Salvador's Doctrine and Military Education Command (CODEM, per its Spanish acronym). The teams developed case analysis and applied their theoretical and practical knowledge of international humanitarian law (ILH), resolving low-, mid- and high-level matters in teams of four representatives per country. “We are satisfied with our performance in this competition. The Salvadoran team had excellent preparation and consulted the bibliography provided by the ICRC. The team also remembered the experiences of our Armed Forces defending the civilian population in the streets. The two factors allowed us to achieve first place,” expressed Corporal Mario Lara, one of the FAES team members. Over the past decade, FAES has fought shoulder to shoulder with the National Civil Police to protect the civilian population, safeguard their rights, and stop the criminal activities of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS- 13) and Barrio 18 gangs. The Salvadoran military has achieved this level in its permanent deployment of units to enhance public security in the most violent municipalities, at borders, and in perimeters near penitentiary facilities. It has been able to slow the movement of various gangs that harass the population as well as other criminal structures. At the same time, they attend to the safety and physical integrity of citizens. “We are grateful to the ICRC and the CFAC for their contribution to the professionalization of the members of the military institutions through this competition, which is unique in the region and which has surpassed the proposed objectives,” Colonel Elmer Martínez Molina, CODEM commander expressed on October 12th, during the appreciation ceremony for the participants. Interagency cooperation In the case of the team from El Salvador, whose Army carries out patrol, search, and detection operations for arms, human, and drug smuggling in various places around the country, the competition allowed them to consolidate their expertise on how to confront criminal groups without violating people’s rights. “We are currently working on a cooperation agreement between the FAES and ICRC. We are seeking to more fully flesh out the rules that govern the engagement of the Salvadoran Military in public security operations. We are also addressing topics related to protecting the life and dignity of people affected by the criminal acts of gangs or other criminal groups,” said Daira Arana Aguilar, an official of the ICRC's Armed Forces Program. “The contest encouraged healthy competition, evaluating which academy has reached the highest level of application of the concepts of civilian defense. It also emphasizes the importance of decisions within public-security tasks that affect civilians,” stressed Pascal Pinot, representative of the ICRC's Regional Delegation. In the opinion of Colonel Felipe Corea, of the Honduran Armed Forces, the regional competition poses a very big challenge for other militaries when they return home – sharing with colleagues what they have learned when they come back to their countries. “Now, it is very important that the cadets integrate everything they have learned in this competition into their professional life, because in a very short amount of time, they will be the ones who are going to pass this knowledge on to others in the field,” concluded Col. Corea.