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
Uruguay’s Basic Information for the Pre-Deployment of Personnel Involved in UN Stabilization Missions (2014), in a section entitled “The protection of childhood”, states:
In situations of armed conflict, children are exposed to serious violations of their rights, which demand the attention of all responsible parties in those locations, especially those who, like the contingents in the mission zones, work under the flag of the United Nations.
The issue is so important that a dedicated office has been set up, headed by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
The office has identified six serious violations of the human rights of children during armed conflicts. Personnel are requested to be particularly alert to these violations and to report them through the established mechanisms. …
The six serious violations are:
5. Attacks against schools and hospitals[.]
Uruguay’s Military Penal Code (1943), as amended, punishes anyone who carries out “an unjustified attack against … schools”.
In 2008, Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Jerusalem attack”, which stated:
The people and Government of Uruguay wish to express their strongest condemnation of the attack perpetrated yesterday [6 March 2008] in Jerusalem against a Jewish religious school in the Kiryat Moshé neighbourhood, which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.
Uruguay observes with extreme concern the escalation of violence in the region, and stresses the urgent need for both parties to respect the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular those concerning the protection of the civilian population in all circumstances and in every territory where it is 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 Uruguay, 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.
In 2014, Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Uruguay condemns the attacks against schools and civilian targets in Gaza”, which stated:
The Government of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay deplores the continuation of the military operations in the Gaza Strip and expresses its greatest consternation at the despicable attack carried out by the Israeli armed forces against a UN school, which resulted in the killing of dozens of defenceless civilians sheltered in that place under the protection of the United Nations.
These dramatic events and their dire consequences for both societies … are clear violations of international law and international humanitarian law.
It’s unacceptable under any pretext for the civilian population to be attacked as a military objective, and … under international law, the death of women and children could be considered as a war crime that could fall under international jurisdiction.
These acts should stimulate reflections by the parties to the conflict to stop this escalation of violence and accept as a matter of urgency an unconditional and definitive ceasefire to the hostilities and proceed to an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip.