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We write in advance of the 92nd session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding Azerbaijan’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This submission includes information on the protection of education from attack during armed conflict and covers article 28 of the Convention. This is an updated submission following Human Rights Watch’s November 2020 submission to the committee during its 88th pre-session for its review of Azerbaijan.[1]


Protection of Education from Attack (article 28)

In September 2021, Human Rights Watch released a publication documenting attacks on schools by both sides to the conflict during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.[2] The report looked at what happened to schools during the fighting between September 27 and November 9, 2020, and revealed some of the consequences of the conflict for school children. We examined multiple cases of attacks on schools and the military use of schools by all parties to the conflict.

According to official data obtained shortly after the fighting ended, at least 71 Armenian schools,[3] including 2 in the Republic of Armenia, and 54 Azerbaijani schools were damaged or destroyed.[4] Dozens of other establishments that helped children flourish and fueled their personal development and growth were also damaged or destroyed, including kindergartens, arts schools and sports schools, and vocational schools.

Schools on both sides had closed in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and had just reopened in mid-September. They closed again after the fighting began on September 27. Many schools were repurposed as shelters for the displaced.

As of September 2021, Azerbaijan allocated 2.2 billion manat (US $1.29bn) for reconstruction of the territories it took control over at the end of the six-week war,[5] including an initial 7 million manat (US $4.1 m) to repair damaged schools.[6] Azerbaijan’s education minister told Human Rights Watch that he hoped to partner with the international community to build “child-friendly cities.” The area is reported to be contaminated by uncleared landmines and much of the infrastructure was razed.[7] Children have reported to account for more than a quarter of landmine victims since the 1990s, when the age of victims began to be recorded.[8] Neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia is a party to the international treaty prohibiting antipersonnel landmines.

Attacks on schools

On October 3, 2020, when their village came under shelling from Azerbaijani forces, an interviewee who goes by the initials of N.K., age 51, took her two daughters, one of whom was only 10 at the time, and fled for Stepanakert. On October 4, in her parents’ apartment in Stepanakert, she said, “suddenly, there was this roar, and glass flying everywhere.”[9] That same attack badly damaged Stepanakert’s School No. 10, across the street. Attacks apparently targeting the nearby main electrical substation struck the school at least six times over the course of the conflict, putting dozens of classrooms out of commission and cutting the school’s electrical and water supply.[10] Human Rights Watch concluded that Azerbaijan used munitions with wide-area effects, including fundamentally-inaccurate artillery rockets, and that the strikes may be indiscriminate and therefore unlawful.[11]

Other schools damaged by shelling in Stepanakert during the conflict include School No. 12, Kindergarten No. 1, a music school, and the kindergarten of the Armenian Evangelical Association, local de facto authorities informed us.[12]

Armenian authorities also reported that Azerbaijani drone strikes damaged two middle schools in the Armenian villages of Sotq and Kut, near the town of Vardenis.[13] They informed us that at 9 a.m. on October 14, a drone strike seriously wounded a 14-year-old boy on his way to pick potatoes in an agricultural field near Sotq with other civilians.[14]

Armenian authorities informed us that School No. 2 in Martuni was shelled repeatedly between October 1 and October 15.[15] In fact, the worst damage was likely caused by a devastating salvo of Grad artillery rockets on October 19, which also severely damaged the music and arts school in the town’s “House of Culture,” directly across the square from School No. 2. A group of visiting researchers with the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) narrowly escaped the attack.[16] School No. 2 was hit again on November 8, just two days before the ceasefire, said the school director.

The school director went to take stock of School No. 2 on November 10. “One [Grad rocket] hit the roof and fell through the ceiling, three hit the school yard, two hit the fence and one hit the ground next to the entrance to the school basement,” he said. The second floor was severely damaged, and we saw remnants of at least three Grads, two in the schoolyard and one in the second-floor classroom corridor, during a visit to Martuni on November 23. All the buildings in the immediate vicinity had their windows shattered and notable structural damage, including a kindergarten, a library, and the district administration building.

Military use of schools

Human Rights Watch documented several problematic cases of military use of schools by Armenian forces. We also documented that Azerbaijani forces placed schools at risk of attack by positioning military objects nearby.  For example, in the city of Tartar, we found an Azerbaijani military truck parked behind the back wall of School No. 1 on November 8. In another case, three munitions hit the school and schoolyard in the village of Duyarli at around 10 a.m. on October 14. Azerbaijani forces positioned near Duyarli likely increased the risk of Armenian attacks hitting the town, even though the presence of these military objects neither explains nor excuses the shelling of the school. Satellite imagery from October shows there were 10 Azerbaijani firing positions in a field southeast of Duyarli, one just 10 meters from a house. There were also three artillery guns 800 meters west, four rocket launchers 1.5 kilometers north, and two more rocket launchers 2.5 kilometers southwest of Duyarli.

The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment that provides countries the opportunity to express support for the protection of students, teachers, and schools during times of armed conflict;[17] the importance of the continuation of education during armed conflict; and the implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.[18] In June 2022, the UN Secretary-General encouraged governments to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.[19] As of December 2022, 116 countries have endorsed the Declaration.[20]

According to the Action Plan of the First State Program of the “Great Return,” which was approved by the decree of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and signed on November 16, 2022, the Ministry of Science and Education is instructed to prepare proposals for the construction and restoration of educational institutions in settlements in accordance with the territorial planning documents for 2022-2026. In November 2022, the Ministry of Science and Education reported that the construction of several education establishments had begun, including a secondary school No. 1 for 960 pupils in Shusha city, a secondary school No. 2 in Lachin city and a secondary school in Zabukh village of Lachin district.[21]

Human Rights Watch recommends that the Committee ask the government of Azerbaijan:

  • Have any individuals been investigated for attacks on schools, students, teachers, and staff during the reporting period? If so, how many, and what have been the outcomes of such investigations?
  • What kind of mental health and psycho-social services are being provided to children who were exposed to the hostilities?

Human Rights Watch recommends that the Committee asks the government of Azerbaijan to:

  • Endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration.
  • Ensure Azerbaijani laws, policies, or trainings provide explicit protection for schools and universities from military use during armed conflict.
  • Commit not to use antipersonnel landmines and accede to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
  • Prioritize the demining of areas needed for school construction and ensure risk education is provided to students and school staff in the interim.

[1] “Submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s review of Azerbaijan: 88th Pre-session” Human Rights Watch statement, November 30, 2020,

[2] Human Rights Watch, “Lessons of War: Attacks on Schools During the Nagorno-Karabakh War,” September 8, 2021,

[3] Human Rights Ombudsman of the de-facto Republic of Artsakh, Ad Hoc Report on the Children Rights Affected by the Azerbaijani Attacks Against the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), November 9, 2020, (accessed December 6, 2022).

[4] “Azerbaijan considering issues of regional schools damaged during Karabakh War,” Azernews, January 24, 2021, (accessed December 6, 2022).

[5] “Azerbaijan's 2021 state budget adopted in last reading,” AzerNews, December 29, 2020, (accessed December 13, 2022); “AZN 2.2 bln to be allocated from next year’s state budget for restoration and reconstruction of liberated Azerbaijani lands,” apa, December 21, 2020, (accessed December 13, 2022); “Azeris return to their ruined old homes,” Economist, December 16, 2020, (accessed December 13, 2022).

[6] “$4.1m to be spent to restore schools damaged by Armenia during war,” AzerNews, August 4, 2021, (accessed December 13, 2022).

[7] Joshua Kucera, “Following war, Armenia and Azerbaijan reckon with unexploded ordnance,” Eurasianet, December 23, 2020, (accessed December 13, 2022); “Azeris return to their ruined old homes,” Economist, December 16, 2020, (accessed December 13, 2022); “Azerbaijan's Fizuli a ghost town after Karabakh battles,” France24, November 19, 2020, (accessed December 13, 2022).

[8] The Halo Trust, Making Civilians Safe in Karabakh, December 15, 2020, (accessed December 13, 2022); “Azerbaijani journalists, official killed in landmine explosion,” AlJazeera, June 4, 2021, (accessed December 13, 2022).

[9] Human Rights Watch interview, Yerevan, November 28, 2020.

[10] “Azerbaijan: Unlawful Strikes in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 11, 2020,; Dustin Hoffmann (@dhbln), Twitter, November 29, 2020, 3:41 a.m. ET, (accessed December 6, 2022).

[11] “Azerbaijan: Unlawful Strikes in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 11, 2020.

[12] Letter from the Armenian ministries of Education, Justice, the human rights ombudsman of Armenia, and the human rights ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh to Human Rights Watch, March 1, 2021.

[13] “Village schools in Armenia bombed by Azeri drones,” ArmenPress, October 19, 2020, (accessed December 6, 2022); “Armenia reports damage to schools during shelling attacks,” Caucasian Knot, October 19, 2020, (accessed December 6, 2022).

[14] Letter from the Armenian ministries of Education, Justice, the human rights ombudsman of Armenia, and the human rights ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh to Human Rights Watch, March 1, 2021.

[15] Letter from the Armenian ministries of Education, Justice, the human rights ombudsman of Armenia, and the human rights ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh to Human Rights Watch, March 1, 2021.

[16] Human Rights Watch interviews with IPHR researchers, November 28, 2020.

[17] Safe Schools Declaration, May 28, 2015, (accessed December 6, 2022).

[18] Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, March 18, 2014, (accessed December 6, 2022).

[19] UN Secretary-General, “Children and Armed Conflict,” S/2022/493, June 23, 2022, para. 291.

[20] The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, “Safe Schools Declaration Endorsements”, undated, (accessed December 6, 2022).

[21] “Azerbaijani ministry shares construction progress of schools in liberated territories,” Trend News Agency, November 29, 2022, (accessed December 7, 2022).

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