Legal training assisting mission in Iraq
18 November 2015
Legal lessons on the Laws of Armed Conflict and Rules of Engagement are essential for legitimate soldiers operating on modern complex battlefields like Operation OKRA in Iraq.
In Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are being prepared by Australian and New Zealand forces to fight Daesh (ISIL), a terrorist force that in one moment can easily be identified and the next disappear amongst the population.
Australian Army Legal officer Major Peter Thatcher said legal training is focused on dealing with events likely to be encountered by the Iraqi Security Forces on the battlefield.
"During theory lessons I use visual aids to ensure soldiers are able to identify protected and non-protected persons and property on the battlefield," Major Thatcher said.
"The Iraqi soldiers have displayed a good understanding of the right course of action to take, applying it to the particular property or person they identified, which is positive to see.
"Their actions need to be instinctive and should observe the human rights of any persons they encounter, be they combatants, non-combatants or civilians."
This legal knowledge is appreciated by Iraqi Army soldiers like Private First Class Kadhim Ali Hani, who said there is a difference between Daesh and the Iraqi Security Forces.
"Daesh are terrorists and do not follow international laws," Private First Class Hani said.
"We are Iraqi soldiers and we observe the rules."
"I know how to act against and treat the enemy, and that we are to protect things like schools, mosques, hospitals and civilians.
"This information is significant because I can teach my soldiers and ensure we all fight humanely."
Major Peter Thatcher said it is essential that training in the Laws of Armed Conflict and human rights obligations forms part of the overall training program being delivered through the Coalition's Building Partner Capacity mission.
"We can be satisfied the trainees have been equipped with a correct understanding of proper actions that are compliant on the battlefield," he said.
"Further, the fundamental motivation for the Iraqi Security Forces must be that they have a legal obligation to comply with these rules.
"They also have the opportunity to continue garnering international support by being viewed as a professional army which understands both the legal and moral imperative of compliance."
The Australian and New Zealand training is given as a follow-on to that given by the Iraqi Security Forces.
"The Iraqi Army conducts their own Laws of Armed Conflict training and they already have a good understanding of these rules." Major Thatcher said.
"In fact the Iraqi Non-Commissioner Officer Academy has its own dedicated legal department which demonstrates the importance they attach to this subject."