Peruvian Armed Forces and SOUTHCOM Legal Officers Strengthen Ties
By Dialogo February 01, 2016
Officials with the Peruvian Armed Forces and the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) recently conducted a conference to strengthen ties between the countries' Military legal professionals.
Eight Judicial Military officers from the Peruvian Army, Navy, and Air Force met with SOUTHCOM representatives, including U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Steven G. Loertscher, Chief of Operations Law for Air Forces Southern, and Air Force Major Jennifer M. Sánchez, Senior Defense Counsel for the Air Force Legal Operations Agency, in the 1st Binational Conference for Armed Forces Legal Advisors. SOUTHCOM requested the meeting "to help us better understand the Peruvian Military justice system, how the Peruvian Military uses its legal advisers to support its operations, and to lay the foundation for future collaboration between U.S. and Peruvian Military legal advisors,” Lt. Col. Loertscher told Diálogo
During the conference in the Peruvian Army's Headquarters on November 3rd, participants delivered presentations describing how each of the judicial corps works with the Military and how each handles legal matters.
Armed Forces' judicial system
Senior officers from the three branches of the Military, the Armed Forces Joint Command (CCFFAA, for its Spanish acronym), and the Peruvian Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) conducted the presentations, which included describing the work of MINDEF's judicial officers and the defense sector's organizational structure. They also detailed the work of Military training centers, such as the Peacekeeping Training and Education Center and the International Humanitarian Law Center, according to a MINDEF report.
Military officers presented on the Armed Forces' judicial system and discussed the training Military judicial officers receive, as well as their career options. Additionally, a CCFFAA legal advisor detailed the role of an operational legal advisor – an Armed Forces attorney who is familiar with Military operations and knowledgeable about the laws that apply to service members and human rights. They also evaluate intelligence and advise the commanding officer whether the Military conforms to relevant laws, according to the Peruvian government's Military Police Forum website.
Lt. Col. Loertscher gave a presentation about the duties of a judge advocate in the U.S. Armed Forces, highlighting the importance of maintaining close ties to Peruvian judicial officers. The information shared in the 1st Binational Conference “helped establish a connection and open communication between legal advisors from the two countries, with the short-term goal of achieving an exchange of experiences and training on different topics of law for operations, which will be provided by SOUTHCOM,” stated Peruvian Navy Lieutenant Commander Angelita del Rosario Huapaya Rueda, the MINDEF's International Affairs Director, in an interview with Diálogo.
The role of the Armed Forces' legal advisor in the context of an operation is critically important to the effectiveness and legality of missions conducted in the ongoing fight against terrorism and organized crime. “For a legal advisor working in support of an operation, it is very important to learn about experiences in subjects including the fight against subversives, peacekeeping missions, social conflicts, transnational justice, and even organized crime, among other topics, so that the officer can provide advice to the respective commanders,” Lt. Cmdr. Huapaya added.
Promoting the rule of law and human rights have always been important to the U.S. “Strong Military legal institutions help promote these principles within the Military, so partnering with the legal advisers goes a long way toward advancing this objective,” Lt. Col. Loertscher said.
The importance of cooperation
Each country’s domestic laws regulate how its Military interacts with another nation's Armed Forces, making cooperation crucial. “Each country must operate within the parameters allowed by its laws and coordination among the attorneys can help each country understand what legal requirements must be satisfied before the Militaries can work together,” Lt. Col. Loertscher explained. “The cooperation in security and defense that exists with the United States has been fluid and fruitful in these last few years. This has increased our ability to advocate for new levels of cooperation between the Armed Forces of both countries,” said Lt. Cmdr. Huapaya.
Peru is developing the branch of law that applies to Military operations. But the main challenge is “to bring to life the proposals submitted during the 1st Binational Conference for Armed Forces Legal Advisors so they benefit judicial officers in Peru and in the United States,” Lt. Cmdr. Huapaya said. “There are legal advisors who support operations, but not all of them work in this area, given that a legal advisor in the Peruvian Armed Forces usually rotates through different Military units where they cannot always practice in their area of specialty.”