Motion for a resolution - B8-0493/2016Motion for a resolution

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on attacks on hospitals and schools as violations of international humanitarian law

20.4.2016 - (2016/2662(RSP))

further to Question for Oral Answer B8-0361/2016
pursuant to Rule 128(5) of the Rules of Procedure

Elena Valenciano, Linda McAvan, Enrique Guerrero Salom, Pier Antonio Panzeri, Norbert Neuser, Marlene Mizzi on behalf of the S&D Group

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

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


European Parliament resolution on attacks on hospitals and schools as violations of international humanitarian law


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 the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 10-11 December 2015 on the World Humanitarian Summit preparatory process,

–  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 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 UN Security Council resolutions 1502 (2003), adopted on 26 August 2003, on violence against humanitarian workers and 2175 (2014), adopted on 29 August 2014, on protection of civilians in armed conflict,

–  having regard to the Safe Schools Declaration of 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 by the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent on strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law,

–  having regard to the International Committee of the Red Cross report on the Health Care in Danger project and its report on violence against health care facilities and personnel,

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 November 2015 on education for children in emergency situations and protracted crises[3],

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 February 2015 on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria, in particular in the IS context[4],

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 December 2015 on preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit: Challenges and opportunities for humanitarian assistance[5],

–  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 attacks on humanitarian workers are now ‘common currency’ and have reached alarming levels;

B.  whereas the international community has witnessed a harrowing trend of attacks on hospitals and schools in armed conflicts around the world, as well as an unprecedented increase of denial of humanitarian aid and access, the execution of civilians and humanitarian personnel, detention in dire conditions, and civilians being used as hostages or forced into slavery;

C.  whereas the UN Security Council has a clear role to play in ensuring respect for international law relevant to the protection of all humanitarian workers;

D.  whereas states have the primary responsibility to assist and protect those residing within their territory and should work towards stronger and better collaboration between states on preventive actions before violations occur;

E.  whereas there is an artificial distinction between international and local staff as regards strengthening protection for humanitarian workers; whereas local humanitarian aid workers are rarely covered by the same security arrangements as their international colleagues;

F.  whereas the Rome Statute defined attacks against humanitarian workers as war crimes;

G.  whereas, as of March 2016, 124 states are parties to the Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) but 31 countries have still only signed but not ratified the Statute and 41 UN member states have neither signed nor acceded to the Statute;

H.  whereas three signatory states – Israel, Sudan and the USA – have informed the UN Secretary-General that they no longer intend to become states parties and, as such, have no legal obligations arising from their former representatives’ signature of the Statute;

I.  whereas perpetrators of attacks on humanitarian workers should be held to account;

J.  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 regression to an era of war without limits; whereas the report notes that the failure to demand and promote respect for our shared norms and to support the existing enforcement, monitoring and accountability mechanisms contributes to this erosion;

K.  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 who are not, or no longer, taking direct part in hostilities and by regulating the means and methods of warfare;

L.  whereas hospitals and medical personnel are specifically protected under IHL and any intentional attack against civilians and civilian infrastructure is considered a serious violation of IHL;

M.  whereas the Rome Statute stresses that intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, or historic monuments, is a war crime;

N.  whereas the inviolability of UN premises and assets, including schools and health centres, is protected under the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations;

O.  whereas the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also declared that the duty to investigate suspected war crimes is a rule of customary IHL applicable to both international and non-international armed conflicts;

P.  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;

Q.  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 important role 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 15(a));

R.  whereas, between 2012 and 2015, the 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; whereas the ICRC Health Care in Danger initiative sought to ‘[address] the issue of violence against patients, health care workers, facilities and vehicles, and [ensure] safe access to and delivery of health care in armed conflict and other emergencies’;

S.  whereas the participating states of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent 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.  Deeply regrets the loss of respect for IHL and expresses its shock and grave concern about 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 EU Member States, the EU institutions and the Vice-President / High Representative (VP/HR) to recognise the true extent of this emergency, and to prepare without delay a concrete time-bound action plan to use the influence of the EU and the Member States to its full extent to ensure implementation of preventive measures and to halt 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; 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.  Requests that the EU and its Member States put on the agenda of the UN and the UN Security Council the removal of the artificial hierarchy and distinction between international and local staff as regards strengthening protection for all humanitarian workers;

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

5.  Calls on the EU, its Member States and other international donors to fully commit at the WHS to all proposed Core Commitments included in the Agenda for Humanity, which focuses on reducing the humanitarian impact of the conduct of hostilities and enabling humanitarian action;

6.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to urge the UN Security Council to use all available tools, such as targeted measures, the establishment of fact-finding missions or commissions of inquiry, or judicial mechanisms, such as referrals to the ICC, to refrain from using the veto in Security Council decisions on issues related to humanitarian action and to enhance respect for international law norms which provide for the protection of humanitarian workers, and to ensure that acts which could constitute violations of these norms are systematically investigated and that those suspected of being responsible for such acts are brought to justice;

7.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to request that the UN Security Council remind parties to comply with legal obligations and condemn them when they do not, imposing targeted measures on persistent violators while making sure that the lines between political, military and humanitarian objectives are not blurred in peace negotiations and peacekeeping mandates;

8.  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;

9.  Calls on the Foreign Affairs Council and the VP/HR to request that the EU Heads of Mission and appropriate EU representatives (heads of EU Civilian Operations, Commanders of EU Military Operations and EU Special Representatives) establish a list of cases of serious violation of IHL;

10.  Calls on the Foreign Affairs Council and the VP/HR, in order to ensure that the EU policies and actions relating to IHL are developed in a coherent and effective way, to review the current allocation of responsibilities, under which the implementation of the 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 15(a)); calls on the relevant Council working groups to use this mandate to address the current urgent crisis of non-compliance;

11.  Calls on all the UN member states which are signatories to the Rome Statute to sign and/or ratify this Statute to ensure that international criminal law becomes truly global and universal;

12.  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 never been exercised and urges the Council, the EU Member States and the European External Action Service to sponsor an inquiry by raising allegations to address the attacks on hospitals and schools as an urgent crisis situation concerning the respect of IHL standards;

13.  Encourages the EU Member States and the international community to strengthen the role of the IHFFC by facilitating its action regarding both international and non-international armed conflicts through the broadening of its ad hoc jurisdiction capacity; recalls that the IHFFC formally offered its good office to Afghanistan and the USA after the attack on Kunduz Hospital in October 2015;

14.  Notes with concern the currently limited institutional scope for the international community to address common concerns related to IHL implementation; regrets, in this sense, the failure of the states participating 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;

15.  Calls on the UN Secretary-General to promote campaigns to ensure that all actors, including non-State armed groups, are aware of their obligations under international law, fulfil their obligations to facilitate humanitarian assistance and protection for people under their influence, for example by issuing directives to their fighters, and promulgate codes of conduct and permanent orders that reflect their IHL obligations;

16.  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.