What International Laws Are Violated?

Scorched pages from a school textbook litter a floor in Ban Ba Ngo Elementary School, Pattani, Thailand, burned by insurgents on March 19, 2010.
© 2010 Bede Sheppard / Human Rights Watch

Attacks on education violate the right to education and other internationally protected human rights applicable at all times:

  • Attacks on education undermine, prevent, or deter realization of the fundamental right to education, a right enshrined in key international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Attacks on education may also entail other violations of other human rights, including the rights to life; freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; freedom of expression; and freedom of association enshrined in international treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

During situations of armed conflict, attacks on education may violate international humanitarian and criminal law and constitute war crimes (or crimes against humanity during war or peacetime) as set out in the 1907 Hague Regulations, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and customary international humanitarian law, which include the following prohibitions:

  • Deliberate attacks on civilians, including students and educators.
  • Deliberate attacks on civilian objects, which include education institutions not being used for military purposes.
  • Failing to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians, such as using education institutions for military purposes while students and teachers remain present.
  • Using students and educators as human shields by preventing civilians from leaving from education institutions that are being controlled by a military force.

Other actions that may result in violations of international human rights and humanitarian law:

The occupation or use of education institutions by armed forces and other armed groups may:

  • Undermine, prevent, or deter students from realizing their right to education.
  • Place students and educators at unnecessary risk of attack in violation of international humanitarian law.
  • Place students and educators at unnecessary risk of abuses of their fundamental rights to personal security by occupying forces.