PIL Advisory Group experts Martin Polaine and Arvinder Sambei comment on recent news from Yemen and Syria:

Given reports of so-called ‘double-tap bombing’ of targets in Yemen by the Saudi coalition, it bears repeating and emphasising that such targeting is contrary to international humanitarian law.

The ‘double-tap’ tactic involves launching an attack or dropping a bomb, followed swiftly thereafter by a second strike. The reason it is unlawful is, of course, because it is likely that the wounded or medical personnel/first responders will be victims of the subsequent attack. One of the key principles for those selecting a target is that of proportionality; one cannot help but conclude that, in the present circumstances, either no meaningful assessment as to proportionality took place or, if undertaken, any assessment was disregarded.

Turning to the ever-increasing misery of Aleppo and  the specific issue of aggregation in targeting, the words of Article 51(5)(a) of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions might, perhaps, make hollow reading, providing as they do that indiscriminate attacks are prohibited and that an attack will be considered indiscriminate if it amounts to “…an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects”.


Photo: Ibrahem Qasim, Air strike in Sana’a (Yemen), 11 May 2015, Wikimedia Commons, at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:2015_military_intervention_in_Yemen?uselang=fr#/media/File:Air_strike_in_Sana%27a_11_May_2015_04.jpg