Are the Targets of Aerial Spraying Operations in Colombia Lawful Under International Humanitarian Law?

  • Héctor Olasolo
  • Felipe Tenorio-ObandoEmail author
Part of the Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law book series (YIHL, volume 20)


Since the beginning of the program of aerial spraying of illicit crops with a glyphosate-based chemical mixture in Colombia, local farmers and peasants have claimed that it affects their health, environment, and economy. As a result, the legality of this program has been analyzed from an International Human Rights Law (IHRL) perspective. Nevertheless, when it takes place in situations of armed conflict, it is also regulated by International Humanitarian Law (IHL). After finding that some aerial spraying operations conducted in Colombia amount to “attacks” under IHL, the chapter looks into the alleged protected status of both illicit crops and the farmers who grow them for organized armed groups fighting the Colombian government. The chapter concludes that, unless they lose their protected status, they are unlawful targets for the Colombian government. As a consequence, and without prejudice to the findings of a legality analysis of the aerial spraying program in Colombia from an IHRL perspective, if the Colombian government decides to restart the program, it will have to design its aerial spraying operations so as to make sure that they do not amount to attacks under IHL.


Aerial spraying of illicit crops Glyphosate Attack Military objective Protected objects Protected persons Continuous combat function Direct participation in hostilities Colombia 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser press and the authors 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de JurisprudenciaUniversidad del Rosario, Sede Jockey ClubBogotáColombia
  2. 2.Iberoamerican Institute of the Hague for Peace, Human Rights and International JusticeThe HagueThe Netherlands

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