Spotlight: A Conversation With Our Leaders

Peruvian Armed Forces Mindful about Education in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law

The Armed Forces Human Rights Center trains military and civilian personnel to promote human rights.
Geraldine Cook/Diálogo | 16 November 2016

Colonel Herbert Jesús Viviano Carpio, CDIH-DDHH director, is on a mission to make the center Latin America’s main educational organization for human rights and international humanitarian law. (Photo: Geraldine Cook/Diálogo)

Being the country’s lead training center on human rights and international humanitarian law for the Armed Forces of Peru has not been an easy task.

If you add the function of providing the same training to military and civilian personnel from defense industries across Latin America to that role, the task becomes even more daunting. But these roles have been gratifying for Colonel Herbert Jesús Viviano Carpio, director of the Center for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights of the Armed Forces of Peru (CDIH-DDHH, per its Spanish acronym). He has focused on the training center’s mission to become an educational authority on human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL), not only within his own country’s military, but internationally. Since becoming director of the center in January 2015, Col. Viviano, who was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation from Chorrillos Military Academy in 1985 and later became a lawyer, has worked with national and international institutions, planning, organizing, and training in an effort to make the center known as a leader and promoter of human rights around the continent.

Col. Viviano spoke with Diálogo about his experience running the center, its academic programs, the international experience of the students, and the challenges the institution faces in the future.

Diálogo: Why discuss human rights in the military?

Colonel Herbert Jesús Viviano Carpio: Increasingly, the military has been professionalizing its activities, and this professionalization demands respect and support from the populace. That is achieved precisely by respecting people’s human rights when the military performs its duties, which is why training on these subjects is so important. It could be said that the human rights training that we have geared towards military personnel is aimed at ensuring that they always act within established norms and pursuant to the treaties and agreements that we have made in these branches of law, especially since their compliance affects Peru’s image in the international community as a country that is respectful of human rights.

Diálogo: Why is it important to have a human rights educational center for the armed forces?

Col. Viviano: It is important because a state’s armed forces must base its actions on respecting international treaties and agreements, as well as the country’s constitution and domestic human rights regulations. That is why it is important for there to be a training center for instructing service members in these areas of international law, so that they will act in accordance with established norms, respecting human rights at all times and in all places where they carry out their duties, whether in cases of armed conflict domestically or internationally, or in other violent situations within their country.

Diálogo: What is CDIH-DDHH’s main goal?

Col. Viviano: CDIH-DDHH has been operating continuously for 13 years. This organization trains Peru’s military personnel and the military personnel of other countries that request guest participation in the courses. Similarly, training is provided to the personnel from Peru’s National Police and to civilian professionals from the judiciary branch, the Attorney General's Office, and others who work in fields or agencies having to do with the subjects that are common to these branches of law. The main goal of these training courses is to have participants become able to discern the roles the armed forces fulfill in the context of their constitutional mission while respecting established norms, whether those are human rights norms set forth in their constitution, domestic and international norms to which the state has signed, and/or the norms dictated by IHL. All of this training is offered with the purpose of ensuring that members of the military and law enforcement fulfill their mission without overstepping their role or committing any of the crimes classified in these two branches of international law.

Diálogo: Who benefits from this training?

Col. Viviano: The beneficiaries are members of the Armed Forces of Peru, which includes the Army, Navy and Air Force. We also welcome members of the National Police to take part in this training, integrating them with the military to share knowledge and experiences in the use of force in violent situations. Civil service professionals also benefit from the training; mostly lawyers in the judiciary or at the Attorney General’s Office. They participate for the purpose of sharing their viewpoints on human rights jurisprudence and regulations, and also to get trained on IHL, because these two branches of international law are still not widely established in the curriculum at many universities throughout the country. It is important that civil service professionals learn the body of regulations under which military personnel operate in fulfilling our mission; both to defend our sovereignty and to maintain public order domestically. Similarly, military officers from other countries also benefit by sharing their experiences on these topics in different settings in which they operate, and by learning the same from us.

Diálogo: What kind of training does CDIH-DDHH offer?

Col. Viviano: We have a month-long basic course for military officers and guest civilian professionals. For personnel such as supervisors, non-commissioned specialists, and naval officers, the basic course is three months long. Following that, the personnel who have gone through these basic courses can access the three-week advanced course on human rights that is offered to officers. For supervisors, non-commissioned specialists, and naval officers, it is a two-week course. In both courses, the areas of doctrine and jurisprudence are covered, as well as practical application through case-based reasoning, with exercises and presentations. We hold monthly workshops at different garrisons throughout the country to train members of the armed forces away from the capital, where we also invite members of the Police, the judiciary, and civil authorities from the area.

Diálogo: CDIH-DDHH offers training to other countries’ militaries. What has this international experience been like?

Col. Viviano: It’s a very positive thing, because teaching the participants allows us to share knowledge and experience derived from operations or actions carried out by Latin American militaries in cases of human rights and IHL. In recent years, foreign military personnel have flocked to the center for training in both courses. We have had officers participate from our sister countries of Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil. We also train members of the defense industries of the Union of South American Nations countries in a course that is divided between on-campus and online phases. The center has been operating for 13 years, and it is one of the oldest in the Americas to cover such subjects. That explains why our instructors are so experienced and why they continually train and participate in a variety of events at the national and international levels.

Diálogo: What is the center’s relationship with U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)?

Col. Viviano: We have a great relationship with SOUTHCOM. It is an important relationship, even more so since 2010, when it received more emphasis through the Human Rights Initiative. In recent years, we have worked continually on hosting seminars in Peru as well as in other countries on the continent. The human rights conferences that SOUTHCOM sponsors and hosts have been quite interesting. This April, a conference with members of South American countries was held here, in Lima, and it helped us move forward by expanding and advancing human rights promotion and protection within the armed forces. In the two years that I have served as CDIH-DDHH director, our relationship with SOUTHCOM has been very important, as it has afforded us the opportunity to learn how the members of other countries’ armed forces conduct themselves, pulling from their experiences and their failures in order to recover the best norms and experiences. We have been able to integrate with civil society, analyzing the real-world context for our doctrine and our training, as well as proposing new action mechanisms for promoting and defending human rights in the armed forces.

Diálogo: In your experience as a CDIH-DDHH instructor, are these (military) students open to the subject of human rights?

Col. Viviano: Yes. At present, this training is focused on teaching military service members to respect human rights wherever they are called upon to operate and in any situation. We represent the state all across the country, that’s why our key commitment is, and will continue to be, respect for the people’s human rights. It’s also the case that our military personnel, and especially our senior officers, are hugely motivated to be trained on such topics. And it is inspiring for the populace when they see a military officer teaching classes on human rights. That changes their view of the military service member as a competent professional who is conscientious about acting in ways that respect human rights.

Diálogo: What is CDIH-DDHH’s main challenge moving forward?

Col. Viviano: First, to keep growing as an academic institution nationally and internationally, and to reach a university level, offering master’s degrees and diplomas in these subjects, something that has already been laid out in various proposals. As for how it will specifically develop this mission in the future, CDIH-DDHH aims to become the main educational center in the Americas for spreading human rights and IHL to the military and for providing training in these areas.

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