Saudi rejects UN blacklisting over Yemen child deaths
Riyadh has rejected a United Nations report that placed a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition to a blacklist of child rights violators for causing the deaths and injuries of hundreds of children in war-torn Yemen.
According to UN figures released on Thursday, the alliance was responsible for killing and maiming 683 children in 2016.
The UN’s annual report on children in armed conflict also blamed the coalition for 38 verified attacks on schools and hospitals during the same period but noted that it had taken some measures to improve the protection of children.
In response, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN said on Friday that the information and figures contained in the world body’s report were “inaccurate and misleading”.
“We express our strong reservation in respect to this information,” said Abdallah al-Mouallimi, reading a statement at the UN.
“We exercise the maximum degree of care and precaution to avoid civilian harm,” he added.
A Saudi-led military coalition was formed in March 2015 to support Yemen’s internationally recognised government in fighting Houthi rebels.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced millions.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said that the Saudi UN envoy insisted in his statement “that the brunt of the responsibility for the violence must rest in the hands of the Houthi opposition”.
The Houthis were also included in the UN’s annual list of shame, accused of being responsible for the killing or maiming of 414 children. The rebel group was also named in last year’s report.
In total, the document published on Thursday highlighted the killing of 502 Yemeni children in 2016. It also said that 838 children were wounded last year.
The blacklist also named Yemen government forces, pro-government militia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for violations against children in 2016 – as it also did in last year’s report.
The report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was submitted to the Security Council.
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 initially 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 to cut off of humanitarian funding.
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.
Parties listed in the report are not subjected to UN action. But the report, which was produced by Virginia Gamba, shames those listed in the hope of pushing them to implement measures to protect children.
Caroline Anning, senior advocacy adviser on Yemen for the UK-based Save the Children NGO, told Al Jazeera from London, said children in Yemen “are trapped in the middle of a really brutal war” and “are being attacked from all sides”.
“They are injured in air strikes, their schools are being bombed,” Anning told Al Jazeera from London.
“Children being maimed and we see that every day, children with burns all over their bodies, children and toddlers with life-threatening injuries.
“But there is also the other side of it, the humanitarian crisis,” Anning added.
“There are huge numbers of children who are on the brink of starvation, children impacted by cholera – all of that is a direct result of the conflict.”
Source: Al Jazeera News