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Training in international humanitarian law at the Baghdad Military Medical School

Since November 2018, three French officers and one non-commissioned officer have been integrated into the NATO Mission Iraq (NMI). Launched in October 2018, it aims to provide expertise and advice on security sector reform on the one hand, and training and education within Iraqi military schools and Ministry of Defence institutions on the other. In this context, NMI mission has developed a partnership with the Baghdad Military Medical School.

The first Frenchman to have been integrated into NMI, Lieutenant Colonel Joris is Chief Legal Advisor of the mission. At the end of April, he spoke to students at the Baghdad Military Medical School on international humanitarian law.

As Lieutenant Colonel Joris explains: "My presentations are modest but their purpose is important: to raise awareness among Iraqi officials and instructors about the challenges of current armed conflicts. These modern conflicts are harsh and multifaceted, and the legal obligations imposed on the armed forces are many and demanding. The idea is that they should be in a better position, as specialists, to advise the command and be the driving force behind the reform within the Iraqi Ministry of Defence to ensure better compliance with these obligations. In addition, it is also about the military medical profession operating in a more secure environment and enabling medical units to be more effective in serving their forces and civilian populations.”

Thus, Lieutenant Colonel Joris first focused on presenting the current threats to health personnel, patients, medical and health structures in armed conflicts and other emergencies. He then recalled the fundamental legal principles that seek to prohibit violence and protect health units and services, in particular under international humanitarian law, which is largely based on the first two Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, relating to "the improvement of the lot of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field" and "the castaways of armed forces at sea.”

He stressed that the primary purpose of these conventions and their additional protocols are to protect not only wounded combatants, but also civilian populations suffering the adverse effects of conflicts.

The military is obliged to respect these rules in all circumstances, often in the face of adversaries who do not respect them themselves, as was often the case in the conflict in Iraq. Through concrete examples, Lieutenant Colonel Joris engaged his audience through questions: "What care should be provided to enemy combatants? How can medical personnel and health facilities best be protected? Can we stop and search ambulances? What kind of weapons can doctors have?”

Of the thirty trainees gathered to attend the course, half were women. This was an opportunity for Lieutenant Colonel Joris to recall that among the civilian population, women and children are particularly vulnerable populations and benefit from special and reinforced protections, protections that have to be anticipated in the planning of military operations. Thus, he emphasized the essential role of women in the military in the treatment of these categories of the population.

At the end of the presentation, Lieutenant Colonel Joris said, "This is a strong experience; I take advantage of their presence to converse with them, to learn more about their difficulties and their knowledge. For example, we talked about the Battle of Mosul; their tactical vision was very enlightening. These exchanges are also an opportunity for me to highlight current issues such as the specific care to be provided to interned populations or to children who have fought for Daesh.”

It was originally written by Captain Aurélie for France’s Ministère des Armées. Captain Aurélie is currently deployed with Operation Chammal as part of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. The original story can be found here: https://www.defense.gouv.fr/operations/actualites2/chammal-formation-au-droit-international-humanitaire-a-l-ecole-de-medecine-militaire-de-bagdad

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