Kiev, Ukraine (HRW) – Hostilities in eastern Ukraine have damaged or destroyed hundreds of schools, many of which were used by parties to the conflict for military purposes, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 65-page report, “Studying Under Fire: Attacks on Schools, Military Use of Schools During the Armed Conflict in Eastern Ukraine,” documents how both Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed militants have carried out indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on schools. Both sides have used schools for military purposes, deploying forces in and near schools, which has turned schools into legitimate military targets. The resulting destruction has forced many children out of school and many schools to stop operating or to operate under overcrowded and difficult conditions, Human Rights Watch found.
“Civilians, including children, on both sides of the line of contact have been bearing the brunt of this protracted war,” said Yulia Gorbunova, Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch. “All parties to the conflict have a responsibility to protect children and to make sure that their hostilities don’t cause further harm to their safety and education.”
The government of Ukraine should protect children’s safety and access to education and deter military use of schools by endorsing and carrying out the international Safe Schools Declaration. Russia-backed militants should also avoid using schools following the principles reflected in the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 62 students, teachers, principals, and witnesses for the report, and visited 41 schools and kindergartens, located both in government-controlled areas and territories controlled by Russia-backed militants.