By Bob Krekorian, Naval Station Newport Public Affairs
NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- A contingent of 27 international military and civilian legal advisors attending the International Law of Military Operations (ILOMO) course at the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS) graduated June 20 in ceremonies at Naval Station Newport.
The three-week course prepares military legal advisors to advise their commanders on the legal aspects of operations and play a more constructive role in operational planning.
The participant nations represented included Armenia, Columbia, Ecuador, Germany, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Niger, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uganda, Yemen, and Zambia.
Reaching across international boundaries to build partner nation legal capacity, DIILS engages international military personnel and related civilians. Most DIILS participants are not lawyers within the U.S. definition.
Some serve their governments in as advisory capacity and others are line officers with legal duties.
The ILOMO faculty includes subject matter experts from DIILS and instructors from the Naval War College, the Naval Justice School (NJS) and other agencies. ILOMO students join NJS students for lectures and practical exercises.
International instructors from Australia and Japan also joined this class, providing valuable allied perspectives.
"Having international and U.S. military students working on and studying the same topic provides a basis for working as international partners in the future," said Bill Aseltine, DIILS Resident Program Director and a retired Navy JAG Corps officer.
Working in small groups to facilitate discussion during a practical exercise, the participants and their role played two fictitious countries in a pre-deployment meeting to simulate a bilateral negotiation of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
"In this SOFA exercise we were trying to get a country representative to agree through negotiation that deploying military forces would be protected from prosecution by the host nation," Aseltine said.
"The practical exercises give the participants practice in how to build relationships with their international counterparts and the United States," he said.
Adopting a multi-dimensional approach, DIILS' strategy stems from its capacity to deliver tailored program in many formats such as mobile seminars delivered world-wide, familiarization visits in the continental United States, and resident courses in Newport, R.I.
"DIILS is truly global," said Capt. Robert A Sanders, DIILS director. "We are 20 years young."
"Since 1992, we have engaged more than 1,500 participants from 131 counties in resident program in Newport, and conducted over 1,300 mobile programs globally, reaching more than 41,000 military and civilian participants from more than 135 countries," Sanders said.
"Our mission is to conduct legal engagements on legal topics," said Jeffrey Stefani, DIILS' Special Assistant for Plans and Strategy.
"DIILS engagements are focused on contemporary legal challenges. Recent mobile seminars have addressed topics that could easily be torn from today's headlines, including the legal aspects of combating corruption, terrorism, and cybercrimes; peacekeeping operations; operational law; rules of engagement, rules of use of force, military justice, maritime law, and trial advocacy," Stefani said.
Resident courses address these topics as well as the law of armed conflict and human rights, ILOMO, and military law development.
DIILS will offer a new resident course in 2014 on the legal aspects of Defense Support to Civilian Authorities, to enhance the ability of military and civilian agencies to work side by side.
The international military and civilian resident course participants are normally nominated by the security cooperation officer from the American Embassy in each nation. Participants for some courses are approved by the U.S. Department of State.
DIILS is the sole provider of congressionally mandated human rights and international humanitarian law seminars for units receiving U.S. assistance under the 'Global Train and Equip Program' and 'Global Security Contingency Fund.'
Stefani explained that course offerings have adapted to emerging legal issues, such as the use of drones, cyber warfare, and non-state actor enemy combatants, such as the terrorists that we have battled in the last decade.
For instance, "The Law of Armed Conflict" was created to address armed conflict between nation-states. Non-state actors, like Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, who have the will and capacity to deliver violence like nation-states, create situations that are legally more complex, Stefani said.
"DIILS programs are making an impact. They build relationships and capabilities, and they enhance U.S. access to our partners," he said.
"Having the opportunity to build international relations has been rewarding," said Lt. Jacqueline Swinton, a legal officer with the Royal Australian Navy, one of several international participants who is attending ILOMO and also serving as an instructor.
"I have been able to compare America's legal positions on the international legal stage with Australia's legal positions," she said.
"This training will help me advise the commander and soldiers about what to do and not to do," said Col. Karimou Hima, a legal advisor and inspector with the Republic of Niger army.
"When the students graduate, they will have acquired legal knowledge of military operations, gained experience and perspectives in an international environment, and have learned about international positions on difference topics of daily concern," Aseltine said.
"Progress is measured in the long term by the global increase in the rule of law on and off the battlefield," he said.