UN blacklists Saudi-led alliance for Yemen child deaths
The United Nations has added a Saudi-led military coalition to a blacklist of child rights violators for causing the deaths and injuries of hundreds of children in war-torn Yemen.
The alliance, assembled by Saudi Arabia in 2015, was added on Thursday to the UN chief’s annual list of shame for killing and maiming 683 children and for 38 verified attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016.
Would UN blacklist of parties in Yemen war help protect children?
The UN annual report on children in armed conflict noted, however, that the coalition had taken some measures to improve the protection of children.
The blacklist also named the Houthi rebel group, Yemen government forces, pro-government militia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for violations against children in 2016 – as it did in last year’s report.
The report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was submitted to the Security Council on Thursday and seen by news agencies.
In a statement released along with the report, Guterres said the blacklist was “not only to raise awareness” but also to “promote measures that can diminish the tragic plight of children in conflict”.
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. Saudi Arabia denied threatening a cut-off of humanitarian funding.
Ban describedhis 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.
Yemen has been devastated by more than two years of civil war in which President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi’s government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, is fighting to drive the Houthis out of cities they seized in 2014 and 2015.
More than 10,000 people have been killed and the conflict has ruined the economy and pushed millions to the brink of famine. The Houthis control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.
In an effort to dampen controversy surrounding the report, the blacklist this year is split into two categories.
One lists parties that have put in place measures to protect children, which includes the Saudi-led military coalition, and the other includes parties that have not.
The report, which was produced by Virginia Gamba, the UN children and armed conflict envoy, does not subject those listed to UN action but rather shames parties to conflicts in the hope of pushing them to implement measures to protect children.
Ahead of the report’s submission to the Security Council, rights groups warned against the removal of the coalition from the list once again.
“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.”
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Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies