Rules of engagement
- Government sources
- Commentary and analysis
- See also
Within the wider contexts of the laws of armed conflict, the political and legal mandate under which forces operate in a given conflict, and military bureaucratic-legal structures of authority and command, rules of engagement are rules for military and police forces specifying the circumstances and manner and limits of the use of force. Rules of engagement are especially important in the context of peace-keeping operations and humanitarian interventions. Most governments do not disclose the specific and detailed rules of engagement under which particular armed forces are operating on the grounds that opposing forces would then be able to take advantage of self-imposed constraints. However, in the case of Australian military and police forces operating in the Solomon Islands considerable documentation is available.
The Facilitation of International Assistance Act (No. 1 of 2003), passed by the Parliament of Solomon Islands, 17 July 2003
“Use of force and police powers
7. (1) Armed forces and police members of the visiting contingent may exercise any powers that may be exercised by police officers appointed under the Police Act. (Cap. 110)
(2) In addition to the powers under subsection (1), armed forces and police members of the visiting contingent may use such force as is reasonably necessary to achieve a public purpose.”
“Carriage of weapons by the visiting contingent
9. Members of the visiting contingent may possess, carry and use arms in accordance with their internal orders or rules in order to –
(a) protect themselves or the visiting contingent; or
(b) protect other persons; or
(c) protect property of the visiting contingent; or
(d) protect public or private property; or
(e) achieve a public purpose.”
Testimony to Senate Committee, AFP Assistant Commissioner Mark Walters, Senate Joint Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee, 25 July 2007, p24
“Depending on the mission, we have internal orders that relate to the use of weapons. Our Commissioner’s Order 3 relates to the use of force and that covers the spectrum of the use of force, right up to and including firearms. So the use of force is guided by CO3, Commissioner’s Order 3…In addition to CO3, there may be other mission specific orders and directives – or as you mentioned, Senator, rules of engagement – thaty might dictate when and how weapons are used.”
Press conference, Prime Minister John Howard, 22 July 2003
“Whilst, as always, the Australian Defence personnel and police will behave with appropriate restraint and proper respect for the attitudes and the culture of the people of the Solomon Islands, the rules of engagement are sufficiently strong to properly, as they should, look to the safety of our personnel….
“….the Australian Federal Police will not generally speaking be armed, for the same reasons as they were not armed in East Timor. The people in the close personal protection detail around the Prime Minister will carry arms. That the normal custom in relation to close personal protection, but they will in the generality not carry arms for the same reasons as were explained at the time of East Timor. And this is at the request and upon the advice of the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police. This is in no way being imposed on the police. I want to make that very clear.”
“JOURNALIST: Will the rules of engagement include the shoot to kill approval in dangerous situations for the army?
PRIME MINISTER: Well the rules of engagement will provide for an adequate response if there is a proper apprehension of physical danger.
JOURNALIST: Does that include shoot to kill?
PRIME MINISTER: Well of course it does, yes.”
Solomon Islands – New Zealand Defence Force Assistance, NZDF Media Release 20 April 2006
“All New Zealand Defence Force personnel serving in and deploying to Honiara are armed and have rules of engagement that will allow a graduated use of force if required.”
RAMSI Press Conference: RAMSI’s objectives for 2004, Lelei Resort, Monday 16 February 2004
Lt. Colonel Quentin Flowers [Commander, Combined Task Force, 2004]: “Ramsi military have rules of engagement that allow them to use lethal force if that is the only option, and I won’t go into hypotheticals about when they will or won’t use that lethal force.”
Commentary and analysis
World Vision criticism and government response
Submission, World Vision, Senate inquiry into Australia’s involvement in Peacekeeping Operations, 2007
Munitions used on the Solomon Islands
“Concerns have been expressed to us by serving AFP officers about the deployment of non-approved munitions in the Solomon Islands around the time of the riots in Honiara on I8th -19th April 2006. These included either 40mm bean bag rounds or 40mm foam rounds, 12 gauge bean bag rounds, CS Gas and possibly Stinger grenades containing rubber balls. We understand that these munitions were used by IDG members on I8th April 2006 in Honiara, despite them not being approved use of force options at the time under Commissioner’s Order 3 (CO3).
“We further understand that on 19th April 2006, CO3 was retrospectively amended for a 28-day period to permit the use of previously non-approved munitions. World Vision is concerned by the possibility and the perception that use of force options are being approved for use in overseas deployments which would not be approved in Australia….
Instructions on the use of less than lethal force:
“Any use of force in peacekeeping operations must comply with Australia’s obligations under international law. AFP use of force orders prohibit shooting above the shoulders except in the most extreme circumstances, such as the threat of ‘death or serious injury and when there is no other option. Likewise, if people are fleeing, they are unlikely to be posing an immediate threat, so shooting them in the back with bean bag rounds is not acceptable.
“Concerns have been expressed to us by serving AFP officers who witnessed inappropriate and possibly illegal information, given by an lDG Team Leader in the Solomon Islands during his presentation on the use of less than lethal force to members of the ADF and the New Zealand Police. The Team Leader concerned, who was not an AFP Operational Safety Trainer, reportedly informed participants that, from his experience in mine security in PNG, a person’s neck was a good place to aim with a 12 gauge bean bag round, since this could render the person unconscious, and that shooting people in the back as they were fleeing was also acceptable.”
Weapons training and/or validation of weapons competencies for IDG members:
“We understand that members of both AFP National and AFP ACTP are required to have their weapons systems competency recertified annually. We would expect that similarly high standards would be required of members of the AFP and other police forces deployed under the lDG overseas. But concerns have been expressed to us by serving AFP officers about some lDG members using weapons overseas without having undertaken either the AFP approved training program, or if they were already qualified in their own police forces, the AFP validation program to ensure their competency. If this is true, a tightening of procedures would seem to be appropriate.”
RAMSI Police Did Not Break Rules in April Riots: McDermott, RAMSI press release, 2007
“RAMSI Participating Police Force Commander, Denis McDermott has strongly refuted allegations that the PPF broke the rules of engagement in their response to the April riots last year. Claims that PPF officers were instructed to shoot people in the neck with rounds of ‘beanbags’ are simply untrue, Mr McDermott said in a statement released today.
“’The PPF did not have such equipment in the Solomon Islands at the time and no one has ever encouraged our officers to shoot people in the neck or back.’
“… Mr McDermott said the ultimate test of whether the PPF and the SIPF had acted in accordance with the rules of engagement was the number of casualties suffered by the public during the period public disorder he said.
“’The simple fact is there was no loss of life during the events of April 2006 and no members of the public were injured,’ Mr McDermott said. ‘In contrast 40 police officers sustained injuries, some serious.’
“Mr McDermott said that the police in dealing with demonstrations are often confronted with difficult circumstances and are trained to be very careful to avoid creating a situation where force might have to be used. He said the Australian Federal Police’s Professional Standards Unit had also investigated the allegations and found that there was no substance to the allegations.”
AFP reply to Questions on notice, Senate inquiry into Australia’s involvement in Peacekeeping Operations, Question 9, p57
“The three use of force related matters raised in the World Vision submission have been fully investigated by AFP Professional Standards.
“a. Munitions used on the Solomon Islands. “Concerns have been expressed to us by serving AFP officers about the deployment of non-approved munitions in the Solomon Islands around the time of the riots in Honiara on 18 -19 April 2006. These included either 40mm bean bag rounds or 40mm foam rounds, 12 gauge bean bag rounds, CS Gas and possibly Stinger grenades containing rubber balls.”
“The outcome of the Professional Standards investigation conducted in 2006 was that all these munitions are approved for use by the AFP. The investigation identified that there was no AFP training package for 40mm grenade launchers used by the AFP and therefore no AFP members were endorsed to use the weapon. Subsequently, an accredited external training organisation was identified to deliver an accredited training curriculum to ensure AFP members were appropriately endorsed.
“b. Inappropriate and possibly illegal information on the use of force. “Concerns have been expressed to us by serving AFP officers who witnessed inappropriate and possibly illegal information, given by an IDG Team Leader in the Solomon Islands during his presentation on the use of less than lethal force to members of the ADF and the New Zealand Police.”
“The outcome of the Professional Standards investigation into this matter found there was no substance in the allegation.
“c. Weapon qualifications. “.. .concerns have been expressed to us by serving AFP officers about some IDG members using weapons overseas without having undertaken either the AFP approved training program, or if they were already qualified in their own police forces, the AFP validation programme to ensure their competency.
“The outcome of the Professional Standards investigation conducted in 2006 found the allegation was too general to be properly investigated as it did not identify a member or weapon system. The investigation did identify that a training adviser with the AFP Operations Support Team used a less than lethal weapon on a non AFP member during a presentation of less than lethal use of force. This is a breach of Commissioner’s Orders 3 (Use of Force).
“In this instance the AFP member providing the training had not undertaken an AFP validation program; however he was a highly trained tactical operator with 10 years experience with a state police tactical response team and had been delivering training on this weapons system for four years.”
AFP expansion: Helping Friends or Helping Ourselves?, Marni Cordell, New Matilda, 24 September 2007
“The AFP says it has investigated the [World Vision] claims and denies them. But according to World Vision’s Director of Policy and Programs, Paul Ronalds, the officer in question was not interviewed as part of the investigation, and nor were other key witnesses. Ronalds says the officer is now facing serious internal pressure not to take the issue further.
“‘[We are] concerned by the possibility and the perception that use of force options are being approved for use in overseas deployments which would not be approved in Australia,’ says Ronalds.
“….‘We stand by our submission and further state that, to the best of our knowledge, some of these issues have not been thoroughly investigated. Such investigations would presumably, at a minimum, include interviews with the officer and his personnel and other witnesses to the alleged incidents.’ “
Australia Leads Charge in Operation Helpum Fren – Is it massive overkill or recolonisation?, Michael Field, Pacific Magazine, 1 September 2003
“While the Australians talked about rules of engagement and lethal force, the Fijians with Sinai, Lebanon and East Timor under their belts, were a good deal more relaxed.
” ‘The smile is a very effective weapon because when you smile it shows what’s inside you,’ Captain Albert Vosaicake said, while out on patrol protecting the country’s international airport. ‘Smiling in the whole Pacific is very natural. In Fiji, you don’t learn to smile, it comes naturally.’ “
- Rules of engagement – ADF
- Rules of Engagement – Afghanistan and Iraq
- Rules of Engagement – Timor
- Status of Forces, Australian Forces Abroad