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Suffering inflicted on Aleppo’s children ‘brutal abdication of human rights obligations’ – UN experts

GENEVA (3 October 2016) – The continuing onslaught by the Syrian Government and its allies which is killing and maiming children in areas of eastern Aleppo is a brutal abdication of the international human rights obligations they have committed to respect, UN child rights experts said.

“Syria and Russia have both ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, they have ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict,” said Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. “This doesn’t solely mean not recruiting and/or using child soldiers.  It means not targeting children in situations of armed conflict; it means not attacking places, such as schools and hospitals, which might amount to war crimes under international humanitarian law,” he said.

“Yet in eastern Aleppo, this is what we are seeing. Children are being killed and maimed. Airstrikes are hitting the few remaining hospitals. The use of bunker-busting bombs means children cannot even safely attend schools that are underground,” Mr. Mezmur added. 

The Geneva-based Committee recently heard accounts from visiting Syrian doctors who detailed their struggle, given the scale and extent of casualties among civilians, to treat the terrible injuries children are suffering. “Children are not only being seriously injured but are trapped amid the continuing bombardment, unable to escape and receive life-saving medical care,” Mr. Mezmur noted. 

“Even if the war were to end today, it will take decades to recover from the destruction wrought on Aleppo and across Syria and the psychological wounds to heal from the trauma inflicted on these children. We are probably not talking of a lost generation, but quite possibly of lost generations,” the Committee Chair said.

“The stunned, bloodied face of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance after being pulled from the rubble horrified the world, not least because it showed that war is all this child has known in his short life,” said Mr. Mezmur.

He noted that the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by 196 States and the Optional Protocol (OPAC) by 165.

“We call on Syria and Russia, as well the international community, to show they abide by their human rights obligations set out in those treaties and find a way to end this raging conflict now. Omran must not be an adolescent or even a young adult before he knows what peace is,” Mr. Mezmur stressed.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Liz Throssell (+41 (0) 22 917 9466/ +41 79 752 0488 ethrossell@ohchr.org

Background: Members of the CRC are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Committee’s concluding observations are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the treaty. To learn more about the Committee on the Rights of the Child: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRCIndex.aspx

Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified to date by 196 States):
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

Optional Protocol to the involvement of children in armed conflict (ratified to date by 165 States):
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/OPACCRC.aspx

Check which countries which countries have ratified the main international human rights treaties:
http://indicators.ohchr.org/

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