The United Nations said on Monday it had removed the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen from a child rights blacklist pending a joint review by the world body and the coalition of the cases of child deaths and injuries.
The U.N. report on children and armed conflict – released last Thursday – said the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year, killing 510 and wounding 667, and half the attacks on schools and hospitals.
Following a complaint by Saudi Arabia, however, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed to a joint review by the world body and the coalition of the cases cited in the annual report of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights in war.
“Pending the conclusions of the joint review, the secretary-general removes the listing of the coalition in the report’s annex,” Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
But Saudi Arabia’s U.N. ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, said the removal of the coalition from the blacklist was “irreversible and unconditional.”
“We were wrongly placed on the list,” he told reporters. “We know that this removal is final.”
Mouallimi, who described the removal as a vindication, earlier on Monday said the figures in the U.N. report were “wildly exaggerated” and that “the most up-to-date equipment in precision targeting” is used.
Saudi Arabia had not been consulted prior to the publication of this year’s report, Mouallimi added.
Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri said in a statement late on Sunday that the U.N. had not based enough of its report on information supplied by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.
The coalition began a military campaign against Houthi militias in March 2015. It sides with the President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, while the Houthis are aligned with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted after Yemen revolution in 2012. The conflict has left nearly 4,300 dead since March, half of them civilians, according to UN figures.
Grave violations against children
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has previously slammed the Saudi-led coalition for “killing and maiming” children in Yemen, adding it to an annual blacklist of countries and armed groups that have violated children’s rights in conflict.
The United Nations included the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on the blacklist of child rights violators. Among others listed are notorious groups such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram. The Houthis – who are on the other side of the conflict – have been on the UN list for at least five years.
“Grave violations against children increased dramatically as a result of the escalating conflict,” a report released by Ban on Thursday states.
“In Yemen, owing to the very large number of violations attributed to the two parties, the Houthis/Ansar Allah and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are listed for killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals,” the secretary-general stated in the document.
However, Mr. Ban pulled out and changed his statement later.
Unlawful attacks in Yemen
human right activist, Lama Fakih, who is a senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International, said that her organization has called on a range of consequences against the Saudi-led coalition because of their “unlawful attacks.”
“We have seen for example attacks against schools rendering them unusable so that children have not been able to start the academic year. We’ve seen the Saudis also use a banned cluster munitions which act as landmines when they are left in civilian areas and are particularly problematic for children, who mistake them for toys and move them around and end up being causalities of this weapons,” Fakih said.
She added that Amnesty International called on the states that are supplying the Saudi coalition with weapons to stop doing so.
“We believe that it is important that there is being an arms embargo against the coalition to send a clear message that these attacks must stop and that they must take their obligations under international law seriously,” Fakih said.