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 2011, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict, South Africa’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development stated:
[W]e welcome the expansion of the trigger mechanism for punitive measures against those committing recurrent attacks on schools and hospitals. We are concerned about the emerging trend of such attacks. We call on all parties involved in conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and to refrain from attacks against civilian targets, particularly those where children might be present.
In 2011, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict, made partly on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, including South Africa, the deputy permanent representative of Canada stated:
The Friends Group is pleased with the work undertaken by the [UN] Security Council, in the last few years, in progressively strengthening the protection framework for children affected by armed conflict. …
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 [UN] Security Council Resolution 1612 [of 2005] listing criteria. The Friends Group has supported a progressive approach in this regard and therefore commends the [UN] 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.
In 2013, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, made on behalf of the members of the Human Security Network and on behalf of South Africa as an observer, the deputy permanent representative of Chile stated:
Despite the unrelenting efforts of the international community, civilians continue to account for the majority of casualties in armed conflicts. Their situation becomes even more precarious when they are deliberately targeted, indiscriminately attacked or when they are viewed as of strategic value in a conflict. …
… Moreover, the effective protection of civilians requires that health-care facilities, schools, teaching staff, transport, humanitarian personnel and people seeking medical treatment are unconditionally spared from attacks and acts of displacement.