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Spain adopts a code of conduct for overseas operations

(B2) The Spanish Defense Minister, Carme Chacon, during her wishes to the armed forces, Tuesday in Madrid, explained the new code of conduct, which has just come into force through a Royal Order, which will govern the deployment of troops in peacekeeping operations.

Two ethical principles. This Code of Conduct which incorporates the main principles of international humanitarian law and reconnects with a Spanish tradition of international law (“Spain had been part of the first group of 16 signatories to the first Geneva Convention in 1864“) and which contains “two tragic topical principles” underlined the Minister (making a reference to the situation in Gaza):

1° The principle of distinction, which requires a distinction between combatants and non-combatants, between military objectives and civilian installations, in order to avoid the majority of innocent victims.

2° the “principle of limitation which supposes the exclusion of the use of certain weapons and tactics odious to modern conscience. These weapons include cluster bombs, munitions about a hundred countries have committed to eliminating in a process in which Spain has been a pioneer, and we would like to see integrated by all countries, she said. added.

The code also prohibits mistreatment and abuse of prisoners, obliges the military to protect women and children from prostitution and sexual abuse during wars or peacekeeping operations.

Practical interest. Although this text does not present any fundamental novelty in relation to international commitments already signed, it has a major interest: it sets the legal reference for Spanish soldiers, because it replaces a 1978 provision on the rules of engagement for armies. And above all it allows the military not to obey orders contrary to this ethical code.

External operations. Note that the Minister confirmed Spanish commitments in three theaters of operation: in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in Kosovo (Kfor – NATO) and in Somalia (Eunavfor – EU). But she also announced the end of the commitment in Chad after March (Eufor – therefore a priori without relay with Minurcat II) and in Bosnia (Althea – EU), without specifying a date but indicating that the “objectives have been achieved ”.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).