Human Rights Watch has supplied further momentum to the growing movement to protect education during conflicts, by pointing out the gap between global and national legal protections. Governments should explicitly outlaw attacks on schools and curtail their use by the military, the organization said in a report released on Wednesday.
While international criminal law prohibits attacks on schools, governments have been slow to match this level of protection in their own laws, Human Rights Watch said in the report, Schools and Armed Conflict: A Global Survey of Domestic Laws and State Practice Protecting Schools from Attack and Military Use.
“Children are entitled to go to school in a safe environment, even during times of conflict,” said Bede Sheppard, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch (who narrates the video below on attacks on schools in Thailand). “Attacks on schools and the military use of schools jeopardize children’s safety and education.”
In Schools as Battlegrounds, an online multimedia feature, Human Rights Watch has gathered material about attacks on schools, including photos, links to key reports, and videos, including the one below.
Joining forces to protect education: Human Rights Watch is one of eight NGOs and UN agencies (including UNESCO) on the steering committee of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, formed last year after a series of conferences convened by UNESCO that brought together over 70 experts in education in emergencies, international humanitarian and human rights law, and child protection.
The coalition, officially launched in New York last month, aims to highlight the incidence and impact of deliberate attacks on education in conflict-affected situations, strengthen monitoring and reporting systems, promote effective programmatic responses, encourage adherence to international law and increase accountability for attacks.