Practice Relating to Rule 7. The Principle of Distinction between Civilian Objects and Military Objectives
Section D. Attacks against places of civilian concentration, including schools
In 2009, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the permanent representative of Switzerland stated:
The current situation in Gaza cries out to us the importance of the issue we are discussing today. …
Furthermore, last week, Switzerland called for an independent inquiry into the allegations of violations of international law committed during these hostilities, including the attacks on two schools run by UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency]. In this context, it is essential that light be cast on all allegations of violations committed by all parties.
In 2010, in its Report on IHL and Current Armed Conflicts, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
International humanitarian law also clearly prohibits attacks against the civilian population. This also applies to abductions, suicide attacks against markets, mosques or schools, as well as torture and other acts of terrorism. Only attacks against military objectives come within the framework of international humanitarian law, even if these take the form of suicide attacks.
[footnote in original omitted]
In 2011, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict, made on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, including Switzerland, the deputy permanent representative of Canada stated:
Members of the Friends Group have reliably called on the [UN] Security Council to strengthen its protection framework even more and consistently called for all six grave violations committed against children in armed conflict to be included amongst the Security Council Resolution 1612 [of 2005] listing criteria. The Friends Group has supported a progressive approach in this regard and therefore commends the Security Council in filling an important gap in the child protection framework by including attacks against schools and hospitals as the latest trigger through the resolution it will adopt today [Resolution 1998 (2011)].
For the Friends Group, a new trigger such as this not only includes in the annexes to the Secretary General’s reports on children and armed conflict those parties to armed conflict that, in contravention of applicable international law, engage in attacks against schools and hospitals, but also those who engage in threats or attacks against schoolchildren, patients, educational or medical personnel.