GENEVA (27 August 2018) – Saudi Arabia must respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child asserted following airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on 9, 22 and 23 August 2018. The attack in Dahyan, Saada province in the north of the country, and three separate airstrikes last Wednesday and Thursday in the Hudaydah governorate, in western Yemen, killed at least 67 children and injured scores of others, according to UN sources.
“Yet again, children are bearing the brunt of horrific attacks in Yemen,” said Renate Winter, Chair of the Child Rights Committee, which is the independent body charged with monitoring compliance by States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) the 9 August airstrike was the “single worst attack” on children in Yemen since 20151.
Despite the outrage that followed the Saada attack children have been targeted in Hudaydah just two weeks later, Winter said. She emphasized that States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes Saudi Arabia, have an obligation to prevent violations of international human rights law. They must also respect rules of international humanitarian law applicable to children in armed conflict and take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.
The Child Rights Committee reiterated its concluding observations following its consideration of Saudi Arabia in September 2016, in which it “(...) joins the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in calling upon the State party to respect and ensure respect for the prohibition on attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as for the core principles of precaution, distinction and proportionality, and to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need (…)”(CRC/C/SAU/CO/3-4, para. 39).
Recalling the demand for an international, independent investigative body to examine allegations of violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law in Yemen further cited in the Committee’s concluding observations, Winter emphasized the need to ensure full accountability and encouraged Saudi Arabia to fully cooperate with the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen.
“It is necessary to allow for a thorough, impartial and credible investigation into this and other attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including educational and health facilities, and bring perpetrators to justice,” she said.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who 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.
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