Will the UN blacklist Saudi-led coalition over Yemen?
A leaked draft of the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict annual report, set to be submitted to the Security Council later on Thursday, showed that the coalition was on the list.
The coalition was the only side in Yemen’s war that was left out of last year’s report.
Though it had originally been placed on the 2016 report, it was later “temporarily” removed by then-UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who cited “unacceptable” pressure by the Gulf countries, including threats by Saudi Arabia to cut funding to the UN.
Ban described his decision to remove the coalition off the list as one of the most “painful and difficult,” but stood by his choice warning that “millions of other children would suffer grievously” in places such as Palestine, South Sudan and Syria if funding were cut.
In mid-August, following the leaking of the report obtained by Al Jazeera, the Saudi UN Mission said “there is no justification whatsoever for including its name in the annex of the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict […] we trust that the UN will make the appropriate decision on this matter” in a statement.
Rights groups are now warning against the removal of the coalition from the list once again, in anticipation of the report’s submission to the Security Council.
“All groups working on children’s rights in Yemen and around the world would be very, very disappointed if, for the second year running, despite clear patterns of grave violations, the party is removed from the list,” Caroline Anning, senior advocacy adviser on Yemen for the UK-based Save the Children NGO, told Al Jazeera from London.
“All sides in Yemen have shown a complete disrespect for the protection of children. We’ve seen a situation in which the world’s worst humanitarian crisis has been created as a direct result of the war – the cholera epidemic, the hunger crisis, it’s all a result of the conduct of the warring parties.”
A spokesperson for the UN secretary-general told Al Jazeera that the UN chief and his office “have been in contact with all parties and he will make the decision that he believes is the right one”.
Stephane Dujarric added that the report is expected to go the Security Council on Thursday and will be made public on Friday.
The leaked report verified 1,340 cases of killing or wounding of children. Some 683, or 51 percent, were blamed on coalition air raids.
Houthi rebels were also listed in the report as being responsible for the killing or wounding of 414 children.
In total, the report found that 502 Yemeni children were killed, and 838 wounded in total in attacks by all parties. It also documented nearly three-quarters of air raids on schools were carried out by the coalition.
The numbers on victims, however, may be an underestimation, as they are figures that only the UN was able to verify.
Nabil Albaydani, executive director of the SAM organisation for Rights and Liberties, said the real figures are “out of our imagination,” but the lack of a neutral investigation has led to conflicting figures.
Albaydani, whose organisation works with Yemenis on the ground to document rights violations, said he expects Saudi Arabia to impose pressure to have their name removed.
“However, I don’t think they will succeed. I don’t think the UN will repeat the same move again. No one will trust the UN office from now on if they accept Saudi affecting international resolutions and decisions,” he told Al Jazeera.
The UK-based NGO, War Child, released a similar statement.
“The UN must now follow through and honour its obligations to children by listing the Saudi-led coalition in the final report and not bow to threats or pressure to de-list the coalition,” Rob Williams, CEO of War Child UK, said.
“Any other version will be a fake report, and will mock the very principles that the UN was built on.”
UN denies pressure
“We consider that no pressure would lead to anything. There is technical work that is being conducted and, in the end, that will be presented to me. I will make the decision to what I think is the right thing to do.”
Besides being the targets of attacks, children stuck in the conflict face many other violations such as abduction, recruitment to fight on the front lines, and sexual violence.
The UN has described it as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, where 18.8 million people have been left in need of humanitarian or protection assistance, with at least 10.3 million who require immediate lifesaving assistance.
In addition, more than 17 million people in Yemen are facing food shortage; the UN warns that the country is on the brink of famine with 80 percent of the country’s children in desperate need of aid.
More than 10,000 killed, and three million have been displaced from their homes.
The country has been engulfed in a bloody civil war since September 2014 after Houthi rebels captured the capital Sanaa and overthrew President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi‘s government.
In 2015, the Saudi-led coalition began a campaign against the Houthis, which are allied with ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect comments received by the UN secretary-general’s office.
Source: Al Jazeera News