Human rights groups have condemned a UN decision to remove Saudi Arabia from a blacklist of countries and groups accused of violating children’s rights.
The Saudi Arabia’s 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.
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’s campaign against Houthi militia 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.
Human Rights Watch accused Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, of giving in to “political manipulation” in the wake of furious protests from Riyadh. It said the UN had executed a “shocking flip-flop”.
Amnesty International decried “blatant pandering”, which it said “damages the credibility of the UN as a whole”. Oxfam said the world body’s decision to retract its findings was “a moral failure.”
Read more: Saudi Arabia removed from UN blacklist for crimes against children
Saudi campaign in Yemen and human rights breaches
International human rights groups have raised concerns about Saudi airstrikes and accused the coalition of deliberately targeting civilians with cluster bombs, which would constitute a war crime. The British government has said it is urgently investigating allegations that UK-manufactured cluster bombs have been used.
Oxfam said the UN report on children and conflict was yet more evidence that countries such as Britain and the US should halt “reckless” arms sales to all participants in the conflict.
Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, said: “Political power and diplomatic clout have been allowed to trump the UN’s duty to expose those responsible for the killing and maiming of more than 1,000 of Yemen’s children.
“The killing of children in their homes, at schools and in hospitals should not be swept under the carpet. When the UN identifies crimes such as these it needs to act, regardless of who the perpetrators are.”
HRW’s deputy director for global advocacy, Philippe Bolopion, said: “After giving a similar pass to Israel last year, the UN secretary general’s office has hit a new low by capitulating to Saudi Arabia’s brazen pressure and taking the country off its just published list of shame. Yemen’s children deserve better.”
Richard Bennett, the head of Amnesty’s UN office, said: “This is a stark example of why the UN needs to stand up for human rights and its own principles – otherwise it will rapidly become part of the problem rather than the solution.”