11 Jun 2024
Press Release: ُUN Committee on the Rights of the Child Finally Recognizes the Plight of Sinai Children, Calls for International Access to North Sinai
11 يونيو 2024

London - June 11, 2024

The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights stated today that the concluding observations issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on May 30th on the combined fifth and sixth reports of Egypt, as part of its ninety-sixth session, on its compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, represent a significant step towards the documentation and accountability of the violations ongoing in North Sinai for years with no deterrence.

The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights submitted separate reports to the committee in July 2023 and April 2024 as documentation of the Egyptian authorities' failure to implement several provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflicts. The Foundation also published a report in April 2024 on the attacks on the right to education in North Sinai over the past decade, providing compelling evidence of Egyptian government forces using 49 educational facilities for military purposes and destroying 73 others without legal merit. The Foundation also compellingly documented in a report issued in August 2023 the use of children as soldiers by armed tribal militias supporting the army in North Sinai in their war against ISIS-affiliated "Sinai Province" members, resulting in the US government listing its Egyptian counterpart for the first time in the annual human trafficking report issued on September 15, 2023.

The Executive Director of the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, Ahmed Salem stated:

he Egyptian authorities should see the UN observations and recommendations as a serious opportunity to correct the course, to protect Sinai children, enhance their opportunities for education, play, and aspirations for a better future. That includes holding accountable those who facilitate or are complicit in the recruitment of children in military battles, as well as conducting transparent and independent investigations into the military use or destruction of schools.

The periodic review of Egypt's reports by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, during its ninety-sixth session, in which the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights participated with reports on violations against the rights of children in North Sinai in education and child recruitment. The reports included rigorous evidence of systematic violations fostered by the Egyptian authorities. The Sinai Foundation documented severe violations by Egyptian authorities of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and International Humanitarian law.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child identified the recruitment of child soldiers as one of six serious violations against children in times of war. International human rights law prohibits the recruitment or use of children under the age of 18, with the use of children under 15 considered a war crime subject to international prosecution.

The Egyptian law specifies the age of eighteen as the minimum age for conscription, in compliance with Article 3(2) of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which Egypt ratified in 2002, and despite such recruitment being prohibited according to Law No. 127 of 1980 concerning military service and national service in Egypt, which stipulates that conscription starts after the age of eighteen. Many armed tribal militias in North Sinai have, however, used child soldiers in combat and logistical operations under the official supervision, encouragement, and support of the Egyptian army forces.

Concerning voluntary recruitment, and despite Egypt’s declaration on the 6th of February, 2007, stating that the minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 16 years, the Egyptian armed forces violated this declaration and continued to officially announce in 2017, 2020, 2021, and 2023 that the minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 15 years.

The UN Committee adopted many points outlined by the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights in reports submitted to or published during the past two years in its recommendations. These reports provided compelling evidence of violations based on interviews with local residents, field visits to Sinai villages, satellite images, leaked or open-source government documents, and on-the-ground visual materials later published in open-source databases to provide knowledge and information to decision-makers, stakeholders, researchers, and journalists.

While expressing their serious concern about the reports of the military use of schools, attacks on schools, recruitment, and use of children by non-state armed groups in North Sinai, experts on the Rights of the Child Committee urge Egypt to adhere to its issued recommendations:

(a) To prevent the recruitment and use of children in hostilities by non-State armed groups and detect and eradicate the persistently reported recruitment and use of children in hostilities in North Sinai, ensure the prompt release, disarmament, rehabilitation, and reintegration of child victims of recruitment and reunite them with their families;

(b) To prohibit children below the age of 18 years from joining the armed forces and consider raising the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years;

(c) To ensure that schools in North Sinai are not used as military bases and provide for the rights of children in North Sinai, including the right to education, by repairing and rebuilding schools damaged or destroyed during the armed violence and consider endorsing the Safe School Declaration;

(d) To provide access to monitoring institutions, including international organizations, to the territory of North Sinai and to carry out investigations and prosecutions of recruitment and use of children as well as into the allegations of torture and enforced disappearance of children in North Sinai.


Sinai Foundation for Human Rights welcomes the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child addressed to the Egyptian government, considering them to be an unprecedented international recognition of systematic violations against civilians in Sinai during the armed conflict between 2013 and 2023, which the Egyptian authorities have long sought to deny fundamentally evading their responsibilities. This was evident in the Egyptian government report submitted last February in response to the list of issues raised by the Committee's experts in September 2023, as well as in the responses of Egyptian delegation members during the discussion of Egypt’s reports at the main session held in Geneva last month.

Sinai Foundation urges the Egyptian government to urgently respond to the recommendations by the UN Rights of the Child committee, starting with allowing human rights and relevant international organizations to conduct visits to North Sinai and to facilitate the conducting of independent investigations into the violations that occurred during the past decade.