Procedure : 2016/2662(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B8-0492/2016

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 27/04/2016 - 18
CRE 27/04/2016 - 18

Votes :

PV 28/04/2016 - 4.65
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


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See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0488/2016

further to Question for Oral Answer B8-0361/2016

pursuant to Rule 128(5) of the Rules of Procedure

on attacks on hospitals and schools as violations of international humanitarian law (2016/2662(RSP))

Stelios Kouloglou, Kateřina Konečná, Lola Sánchez Caldentey, Paloma López Bermejo, Patrick Le Hyaric, Tania González Peñas, Miguel Urbán Crespo, Estefanía Torres Martínez, Xabier Benito Ziluaga, Kostas Chrysogonos, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Jiří Maštálka, Marina Albiol Guzmán, Merja Kyllönen, Stefan Eck, Kostadinka Kuneva, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Marie-Christine Vergiat, Ángela Vallina, Lidia Senra Rodríguez, Javier Couso Permuy, Barbara Spinelli, Marisa Matias on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group

European Parliament resolution on attacks on hospitals and schools as violations of international humanitarian law (2016/2662(RSP))  

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other UN human rights instruments,

–  having regard to the Geneva Conventions and other legal instruments on international humanitarian law (IHL),

–  having regard to Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) on policy coherence for development,

–  having regard to the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions of 8 December 2009 on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law,

–  having regard to the Updated European Union Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law(1),

–  having regard to the Principles of Partnership (as endorsed by the Global Humanitarian Platform) of 12 July 2007,

–  having regard to the report of the UN Secretary-General for the World Humanitarian Summit, entitled ‘One humanity, shared responsibility’, of 2 February 2016,

–  having regard to UN Security Council resolutions 1998 (2011), adopted on 12 July 2011, and 2143 (2014), adopted on 7 March 2014, addressing the protection of children affected by armed conflict,

–  having regard to UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/64/290 of 9 July 2010 on the right to education in emergency situations,

–  having regard to the Safe Schools Declaration of May 2015, opened for endorsement at the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools as convened by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 2015, and the related Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict,

–  having regard to the resolution of 10 December 2015 of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent on strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law,

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 February 2016 on the humanitarian situation in Yemen(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 February 2015 on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria, in particular in the IS context(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 December 2015 on preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit: Challenges and opportunities for humanitarian assistance(4),

–  having regard to the question to the Council on attacks on hospitals and schools as violations of international humanitarian law (O-000063/2016 – B8‑0361/2016),

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the international community has witnessed a harrowing trend towards attacks on hospitals and schools in armed conflicts around the world;

B.  whereas international humanitarian law is not only being violated in the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, but also in the longstanding conflicts in Palestine and Western Sahara; whereas in August 2014 Israel bombed a UN school sheltering more than 3 000 displaced people in the city of Rafah in Gaza, which was denounced as a criminal act by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon;

C.  whereas the first World Humanitarian Summit will be held in Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016; whereas, in his report for the World Humanitarian Summit entitled ‘One humanity, shared responsibility’, the UN Secretary-General, draws attention to what he calls ‘the brazen and brutal erosion of respect for international human rights and humanitarian law’ in armed conflict situations, which threatens to cause a return to an era of war without limits; whereas the report notes that the failure to demand and promote respect for these rights and laws and to support the existing enforcement, monitoring and accountability mechanisms contributes to this erosion;

D.  whereas humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and the basic rules of international humanitarian law and the human rights provided for by the Geneva Conventions and the additional protocols thereto must be at the core of all humanitarian actions; whereas the protection of displaced persons must be guaranteed unconditionally, and whereas aid independence, i.e. aid that is free from any political, economic or security considerations or any type of discrimination, must prevail;

E.  whereas international humanitarian law (IHL) – also known as the law of armed conflict – is intended to alleviate the effects of armed conflict by protecting those not taking part in conflict and by regulating the means and methods of warfare;

F.  whereas hospitals and medical personnel are explicitly protected under international humanitarian law and whereas any intentional attack against civilians and civilian infrastructure is considered a serious violation of international humanitarian law;

G.  whereas women and children face heightened risks as a result of displacement and the breakdown of normal protection and support structures; whereas international humanitarian law requires that all necessary medical care be provided without discrimination to girls and women raped in war; whereas unsafe abortion is listed by the World Health Organisation as one of three leading causes of maternal mortality; whereas maternal health, counselling of women rape victims, and education and schooling of displaced children are major challenges at refugee camps;

H.  whereas, as of 14 March 2016, 52 states, including several but not all EU Member States, have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration following the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools, held in May 2015;

I.  whereas the Foreign Affairs Council, when adopting the EU Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law, emphasised the importance of dealing effectively with the legacy of serious violations by supporting appropriate accountability mechanisms, and underlined the key role which the International Criminal Court (ICC) can play in cases where the state or states in question are unable or unwilling to exercise their jurisdiction; whereas the EU Guidelines commit ‘the appropriate Council working groups’ to monitoring situations where IHL may apply and, in such cases, to recommending action to promote compliance with IHL (paragraph 15a);

J.  whereas, between 2012 and 2015, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) organised a major consultation process on how to strengthen legal protection for victims of armed conflict and how to enhance the effectiveness of mechanisms of compliance with IHL;

K.  whereas the participating states in the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in December 2015 were finally unable to agree on a new mechanism proposed by the ICRC and the Government of Switzerland to strengthen compliance with IHL; whereas the proposed new mechanism would have involved setting up an annual meeting of states parties to the Geneva Conventions; whereas the participating states agreed to launch a new intergovernmental process to find ways to enhance the implementation of IHL with the aim of having the outcome presented at the next International Conference in 2019;

1.  Expresses its shock and grave concern at the deadly attacks against hospitals and schools that are occurring at an increasingly alarming rate in armed conflicts around the world, with patients, students, medical and teaching staff, humanitarian aid workers and family members becoming targets and victims, while international condemnations rarely lead to independent investigations and genuine accountability; calls on the Member States, the EU institutions and the Vice-President / High Representative to recognise the true extent of this emergency and to draw up without delay a concrete time-bound action plan in order to use the influence of the EU and the Member States to its full extent with a view to halting such violations and abuses;

2.  Condemns attacks on hospitals and schools, as prohibited under international law, recognising that such acts may constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and war crimes under the Rome Statute of the ICC; expresses its conviction that the preservation of health and educational facilities as neutral, protected spaces during armed conflict situations depends on the outcome of transparent, independent and impartial investigations into the brutal attacks that have occurred and on achieving genuine accountability for the crimes committed;

3.  Recalls that any IHL violation, such as attacking hospitals, is a war crime and should therefore be thoroughly and independently investigated;

4.  Encourages the EU and its Member States to support fully the UN Secretary-General’s call for all UN member states to seize the opportunity of the World Humanitarian Summit to re-commit to protecting civilians and the human rights of all by respecting the rules that they have already agreed upon; emphasises the importance attributed by the UN Secretary-General to strengthening international investigative and judicial systems, including the ICC, to complement national frameworks, in order to put an end to impunity for IHL violations;

5.  Expresses serious concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and occupied Western Sahara; stresses that justice and respect for the rule of law are the indispensable bases for peace, and stresses that prevailing long-standing and systemic impunity for international law violations must cease;

6.  Acknowledges the importance and unique character of the EU Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law, as no other states or organisations have adopted an equivalent document; expresses its concern, however, about the effectiveness of the implementation of the EU Guidelines by the EU institutions and Member States;

7.  Calls on the EU to promote a ‘Global Consensus on Humanitarian Action’ that reaffirms the principles of humanitarian aid and the obligations and entitlements under international humanitarian law (IHL), while ensuring people-centred and human-rights-based protection responses, and holds governments accountable for their roles and responsibilities in protecting people; points to the negative impacts of the politicisation of humanitarian assistance, and recalls that the upholding of, and continued commitment to, core humanitarian principles is critical to ensuring a humanitarian space in areas of conflict;

8.  Calls on the Foreign Affairs Council and the Vice-President / High Representative, in order to ensure that EU policies and actions related to IHL are developed in a coherent and effective way, to review the current allocation of responsibilities, under which the implementation of IHL Guidelines falls primarily within the remit of the Council Working Group on Public International Law, chaired by the Council Presidency; emphasises, in this context, that the EU Guidelines commit ‘the appropriate Council working groups’ to monitoring situations where IHL may apply and, in such cases, to recommending action to promote compliance with IHL (paragraph 15a); calls on the relevant Council working groups to use this mandate to address the current urgent crisis of non-compliance;

9.  Recalls the position taken in the EU Guidelines that consideration will be given, where appropriate, to drawing on the services of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), established under Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which can assist in promoting respect for IHL through its fact-finding capacity and its good offices function; notes that the services of the IHFFC have not been used and urges the Council, the Member States and the European External Action Service to seriously consider activating this commission, for the first time since its creation, in order to address the attacks on hospitals and schools as an urgent crisis situation concerning respect for IHL standards;

10.  Notes with concern the currently limited institutional space for the international community to address common concerns relating to IHL implementation; regrets, in this sense, the failure of the participating states in the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2015 to agree on a new mechanism that would have strengthened the governance system of IHL by setting up an annual meeting of states to enhance dialogue and by introducing periodic reporting on national compliance with IHL; calls for the EU and its Member States to work towards achieving a better result in the forthcoming intergovernmental process;

11.  Calls for a global commitment to ensuring that women and girls are safe from the start of every emergency or crisis by addressing the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, by raising awareness, by taking steps to prosecute the perpetrators of such violence, and by ensuring that women and girls have access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortions, in humanitarian crises, rather than perpetuating what amounts to inhumane treatment, as required by international humanitarian law and as foreseen in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols;

12.  Recalls that concrete policies of governments, as well as those of the European Union, including trade policies, have led to the current situation of instability in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and the whole MENA region; recalls that fundamentalism and violence are the results of inequality and poverty;

13.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to respond to their commitments in the field of development policies and to honour Article 208 of the TFEU, which states that ‘the Union shall take account of the objectives of development cooperation in the policies that it implements which are likely to affect developing countries’;

14.  Rejects the concept of civil-military cooperation, as it involves the incalculable risk of civilians and aid workers being used to achieve military objectives, compromises the neutrality, independence and impartiality of civilian, development and humanitarian organisations, which is a precondition for effectively delivering aid, and can lead to attacks on NGOs and aid organisations; calls, therefore, for a strict separation of civil and military operations in every area, and recalls that the vast majority of (humanitarian) aid organisations insist on their independence and impartiality, as laid down in the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief;

15.  Notes with great concern the increase in military interventions and the military approach to conflicts, and is highly critical of the role played by the various Western interventions of recent years in fostering the exacerbation of conflicts in the area; states that there can be no military solution to the conflicts in the region; calls for a purely civilian and peaceful EU foreign policy;

16.  Rejects the use of the notion of ‘responsibility to protect’ as a pretext for the unilateral use of force;

17.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the UN General Assembly and the governments of the UN member states.


OJ C 303, 15.12.2009, p. 12.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0066.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0040.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0459.

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