Saudi coalition ‘must act’ over air strike that killed 40 children on school bus in Yemen

Yemen School Bus Attack August 2018
A young boy runs with his tyre past buildings damaged by air strikes in Saada Old Town (Giles Clarke / OCHA)

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies

New UN human rights Michelle Bachelet called the attack "shocking" and said the families of the victims must be compensated.

The attackers who killed 40 children on a school bus in Yemen must be “held to account”, the new United Nations human rights chief has insisted.

Michelle Bachelet said the Saudi-led coalition must take strong action after it admitted the air strike in Saada province last month was “unjustified”.

In her first speech since taking over as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, she said in Geneva yesterday: “I will be closely following what steps are taken to hold the perpetrators accountable and provide remedy and compensation to the victims.

“Last month’s shocking strike on a bus carrying schoolchildren was followed by another horrific series of airstrikes which left dozens of civilians and children killed and injured in Al Hudaydah.”

The call follows a UN report in June that revealed there were 20 attacks on schools in 2017, with 19 of those attributed to the coalition. It said 1316 children were killed or maimed, with 51% of casualties caused by air strikes.

Yemen is among 80 countries that have signed the Safe Schools Declaration – a commitment to keep students, teachers and their schools free from the fear of violence and occupation during armed conflict.

Un Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet, the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Photo)

Meanwhile, a boy who was on the bus when it was attacked at a market in Dahyan has told how his brother was killed.

“We were coming back from a school trip and my brother was sitting next to the bus door,” said 11-year-old Hafidh Abdullah al-Khawlani.

“On the bus, the teacher told us that everyone should hold his brother’s hand – and then mine was martyred.”

Hafidh spoke to the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a cemetery where his brother Waleed was buried along with many other victims of the attack.

The boys had been on a school trip to visit the graves of Houthi fighters killed in the war.

Their father Abdullah al-Khawlani said: “The bus was completely destroyed. When I asked about my kids, they warned me that warplanes would strike again … we searched and found body parts and other wounded children but could not see mine.

“I found Hafidh in the hospital and asked him about his brother Waleed … he said they took him and his eyes were closed.”

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