Multiple Imperatives to Protect Schools as Safe Spaces of Learning

Courtesy of the Oxford Human Rights Hub (February 2, 2016).

As of January 10 2017, 57 states have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, setting out the importance of protecting schools during armed conflict. This post summarises a mini seriesprobing the international legal protection of education, and the Declaration, in the context of non/international armed conflict. Each of the four postings (published here and here) begins by recallingthe violated spaces of learning of the recent past.  Again and again, such attacks have caused senior representatives of the United Nations to state: ‘even wars have rules’.  Of course, there is credence to the view that those rules, in the words of Antonio Cassese, ‘hold Armageddon only partially at bay’.  Certainly today — from San’a to Aleppo and beyond — they remain apparently  ‘all too often checkmated by sheer power’.  And, this necessarily places pressure on foundational humanitarian rules.

Eight reasons why the Safe Schools Declaration matters

Courtesy of The Right to Education Project (November 27, 2016), summarising a mini series of four postings on the international legal protection of education.

The testimonies of these two teachers, one Yemeni, one Syrian, evoke the egregious hurt and harm of attacks on schools. These attacks, among others, illume the imperative of conducing compliance with foundational rules of international humanitarian law, in particular, as recalled recently by the Security Council in relation tothe Syrian attack above, the obligation to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives, and the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks. Undergirding this is an another imperative of respecting the civilian character of schools.  The two are deeply interconnected. The international legal protection accorded schools from attack is necessarily contingent on their civilian character. It is of these dual imperatives that the Safe Schools Declaration was born. Led by the Governments of Norway and Argentina, 56 states have thus far signed the Declaration and committed to implementing the associated Guidelines.  And this matters.

Meta-engagement with international law, understated effects and understated engagers

 

Fourth of a series of four postings, courtesy of IntLawGrrls (September 15, 2016)

Images of violated spaces of learning — untouched since the moment of flight — have a visceral luminosity that belies the absence within. Latent there are the attacks or acts of violence of the recent past: the incursions of spatial and bodily inviolability, or as opined in postings one and two, violations of the international legal obligations to protect embodied learners, and their spaces of learning from attack. Lesser stated (if there is no rapid recovery response or alternative) is the multi-dimensional hurt and harm that lies beyond: the violations of the rights to, in and through education (see posting three of this series). And the hurt and harm beneath: domestic embodiment of those rights may be partial and/or access to public affairs or remedies limited. Or in other words, the vulnerability shift from ordinary to extraordinary embodied vulnerability may precede, undergird and be exacerbated by the attack. The sole form of redress, then, may be international law. 

Knowledge and practice of rights 'in' and 'through' the inviolable spaces of learning

Third of a series of four postings, courtesy of IntLawGrrls (May 5, 2016).

‘I felt that humanity has ended. I mean, a place of learning, to be hit in this way, without warning… where is humanity? …It is supposed to be illegal in any war to strike such places…’  Director of al-Shaymeh School, Hodeidah, Yemen (as cited in ‘Our kids are bombed’ Schools under attack in Yemen (Amnesty International, 11th December 2015), 17).

 

Held there is a widely held supposition: the multifarious spaces of lower and higher learningare supposedly inviolable from acts of violence. Such spaces are, after all, holders of embodied rights-bearers, principally learners, and their multidimensional right to education. Thus viewed inviolability is three-dimensional: spatial, bodily and inner. So too is the right as expressed in international law: the human rights treaty and Charter bodies (and eminent scholars) have illuminated the right as multi-dimensional, encompassing multiple composite rights ‘to’, ‘in’ and ‘through’ education. And it is of continuing applicability at the shift from ordinary to extraordinary ‘embodied vulnerability’ to hurt and harm. The right has been invoked by those same bodies within the converging contexts of emergencies, threats to international and peace and security and non/international armed conflicts. Too often attacks on spaces of learning (and the embodied rights-holders within) form part of this vulnerability shift.

Converging law, equivocation and delimits on the supposed inviolability of spaces of learning

Second of a series of four postings, courtesy of IntLawGrrls  (January 20 and 22, 2016). 

I.

The recent violations of spaces (of lower and higher) learning have evoked near universal condemnation. Held there are ‘the dictates of public conscience’. Undergirding, if not sparking, this collective sense of injustice is a supposition: the spaces of learning are supposedly inviolable from attacks /acts of violence. From this, a supposition of law might follow: ipso facto the spaces are protected as inviolable as a matter of international law.  But is this so? 

Of course, the multifarious spaces of learning, as holders of embodied subjects of rights, principally learners, and their rights to, in and through educationare necessarily accorded protection under international human rights law. The concomitant duo dimensional obligation to protect the embodied rights holder within the space from acts of violence, and the space as a safe space of learning continues within the converging contexts of emergencies, threats to international and peace and security and non/international armed conflicts

Converging law, four points of vulnerability and the supposed inviolability of spaces of learning

First of a series of four postings, courtesy of Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights Blog, University College Cork, Ireland (January 29, 2016).

Chibok. Rafah. Peshawar. Garassa. Donetsk. Aleppo. Sana’a.

Disparate places, among others, bound by attacks—acts of violence—on the supposed inviolable spaces of lower and higher learning, schools and universities, among others. The attacks and their impact—the hurt and harm—on children and adults’ embodied selves resonate far beyond their geographical axis. Or, to invoke the Martens Clause, they may be supposed as violating ‘[…] the laws of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.’ And, in doing so, they undergird the continuing juristic shift of the past century towards the international legal protection of our ‘embodied vulnerability’ to hurt and harm of all forms.* Like other serious violations of international law, then, the attacks transcend the—sometime—distance between us.  But is the clarity of our collective sense of justice reflected in the law?