Defence for Children International (DCI) Condemns Attack on Children in Yemen and Calls for Urgent Action

Defence for Children International (DCI) condemns airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition in Yemen last week, that killed and injured dozens of civilians, including 40 children confirmed dead and 56 injured, in Dahyan, Saada province, in the Houthi-held north of the country.

The Saudi Arabia-led Coalition conducted air strikes on Thursday August 9, 2018, which struck civilians, including children aged 10-13 years old traveling on a bus through a market. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated that it believed this was the worst attack on children since 2015.

This attack is one of several that have killed and maimed children and other civilian structures where children have been, including schools and hospitals as well as funerals. Since the beginning of the conflict, human rights violations have persisted, including attacks on educational and health facilities as well as the recruitment of children as soldiers.  Civilians in the vital port of Al Hudaydah in Houthi territory have also been the victims of indiscriminate violence in the recent months, including children. The situation in Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis globally –  with 75 per cent of the population, requiring some form of humanitarian assistance and protection.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the attack, calling on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and stressed that all parties must take “constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations.” He also called for an independent and prompt investigation into events.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Mr. Martin GriffithsUNICEF and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have also strongly condemned the attacks. Griffiths has invited parties to a dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 6, 2018.

As noted in the annual report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, the Coalition was responsible for killing and injuring at least 670 children (370 killed, 300 injured) during 2017. In March 2017, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that the Coalition airstrikes resulted in over 61 per cent of all verified civilian casualties since March 2015. As highlighted in the June 2018 open letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres co-signed by DCI and 23 other NGOs, Saudi Arabia has failed to sign a Plan of Action with the UN on behalf of the Coalition to end and prevent its violations against children and has failed to meet its responsibilities under international law and standards.

The Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen, established to investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuses and international humanitarian law violations committed in Yemen since September 2014, will present its report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018. DCI considers that the Group’s mandate should be extended.

DCI stresses that all parties must abide by international law and not target civilians and calls on all parties to protect children affected by armed conflict. In order to ensure full accountability, DCI calls for the full and independent investigation of this attack and other attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including educational and health facilities. The international community, including those arming the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition, should take urgent action to hold accountable all perpetrators responsible for the killing and maiming of all civilians, including children, in direct contravention of international law, and ensure remedy and reparation for victims.

The DCI Movement stands in solidarity with our colleagues of DCI-Yemen, and with all the victims of the conflict in Yemen.

For more information on DCI engagement in Yemen, please click here.