ECOWAS has moved to strengthen regional integration by adhering to internationally acceptable standards in its mandate of peace keeping and regional security through the incorporation of International Humanitarian Laws and International Human Rights Laws into the training and operations of the ECOWAS Standby Force-ESF.
The five day workshop which was concluded on 21st October 2016 in Abuja, Nigeria, witnessed military personnel from Member States build their capacity in IHL and IHRL and familiarise themselves with important legal concepts which are crucial in the planning of various military operations.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peacekeeping and Security, Mrs Halima Ahmed who was represented by Colonel Major Seidou Maiga Morou, the Chief of Staff of the ESF at the closing of the workshop urged participants to ensure that the Capacity Regional Forces are built through this exercise.
Participants were acquainted with the set of rules specifically designed to regulate humanitarian problems directly arising from armed conflicts (IHL) and the International Human Rights Laws, which are rights and freedoms as enshrined by the state.
The International Committee of the Red Crescent and Red Cross(ICRC) Head of Unit, Armed and Security Forces in Nigeria, Major livinus Jatto, informed participants that, ‘while International Humanitarian Laws apply only during armed conflicts, International Human Rights Laws are applicable at all times’, He said.
Furthermore, participants were familiarized with the role and principles guiding the military in law enforcement. To this end members of the military from ECOWAS Member States were urged to ensure sure that the use of force in law enforcement should be, Proportional, Legal, Accountable and of Necessity- P.L.A.N.
Also, the workshop enlightened participants on the fundamentals of the protection of civilians in the conduct of hostilities. The use of starvation as a method of war, the use of civilians as human shields, pillage, destruction of facilities and infrastructure essential for survival as well as acts of terror such as indiscriminate shelling or bombardment of cities are all prohibited under IHL.
In order to better understand the laws of armed conflict and improve its compliance the participants took part in simulated deployment map exercises, which took into account the integration of the law into mission planning, the Rules of Engagement (RoE), the treatment of Prisoners of War(PoW) and the Protection of Civilians(PoC) during armed conflicts.
The ECOWAS Standby Force is a multidimensional regional force made up of pledged military personnel from Member States. It’s primarily mandate is peacekeeping, intervention in support of humanitarian disaster and the enforcement of sanctions within the region.
The ECOWAS-ICRC facilitated workshop had in attendance, the ECOWAS Headquarters Task Force, Members of the ESF, military personnel from the Member States as well as the Police and civilian components of the ESF.