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From Joint Military Operations, U.S. Naval War College
July 15, 2013
NEWPORT, R.I. - Military professor Capt. Kevin Brew, of the U.S. Naval War College's (NWC) Joint Military Operations Department, recently participated in a mission to Bogota, Colombia, where he was part of a Defense Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS)-led seminar on Human Rights and Operational Law at the Colombian War College.
Coordinated with U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and Embassy Bogota, the team was led by retired Army Col. John Phelps, Regional Program Director for the Middle East, Central and Western Asia at DIILS, and also included civilian human rights lawyer John McLoughlin, DIILS Regional Program Director for Latin America.  Maj. Peter Kezar, an Air Force lawyer and SOUTHCOM liaison officer to the Colombian Ministry of Defense (MoD), provided support in Bogota.
Brew was impressed by the level of expertise and real world experience by the Colombian military and civilian lawyers and operators who are in the midst of combatting the FARC and ELN.
"We had Colombian military lawyers of all three services and also civilian lawyers from the MoD Human Rights Office, plus special forces and other combat arms officers," said Brew.  "The dialogue was superb, and they were extremely interested in development of rules of engagement (ROE) including the ROE approval process.
"Thanks to NWC's International Law Department, I was able to distribute a few copies of the NWC-San Remo ROE Handbook in Spanish.  We use the ROE Handbook in our NWC JMO exercises.  Simply an excellent tool for discussion."
The training was held on board the facilities of the Colombian War College with a dramatic background of green mountains.
"I was extremely impressed by Bogota overall and moreover the level of interest and discussion with the Colombian military as they remain in the midst of Counter-Insurgency (COIN) operations and the complexities of joint interagency warfare against terrorists."
The initial focus of the executive seminar was on Human Rights, with McLoughlin opening up the seminar with a keystone lecture on that topic and its impact on international law.
"I lectured on international humanitarian law, aka law of armed conflict, Rules for Use of Force, Rules of Engagement, Command Responsibility, the Haditha, Iraq case study, and also a special session at the Colombians' request on Human Rights and Gender Violence including in the context of armed conflict," said Brew.  "I was able to unfortunately note that 20 years after sexual violence had been used by Bosnian Serb forces in 1993 as a tactic and means of warfare, and the recognition by the Yugoslavia and Rwanda international courts of such as a war crime, crime against humanity, and an element of genocide, Al Jazeera had reported that day that Syrian forces had allegedly done the same and caused thousands of women and girls to flee to refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey.  Sadly these same women and girls are reportedly now being exploited and trafficked in the largest refugee camp in Jordan."
Phelps ended the seminar with a discussion of lawful detainee operations including an emphasis on the prohibition against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees.
DIILS, a DOD security cooperation organization operating under the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, provides mobile seminars on a variety of legal topics to international military partners worldwide in addition to hosting resident courses at Naval Station Newport.  DIILS has a long-standing relationship with the Colombian MoD and military.
NWC is a partner of the Newport, R.I.-based DIILS and often sends faculty members overseas to support important training seminars on law and leadership to international military law partners worldwide.
"I continue to be honored to be part of a great relationship between NWC and DIILS to provide this critical legal engagement with partner countries," said Brew.  "Colombia continues to be a focal point keystone partner in the region."