Saudi-led coalition removed from ‘wildly exaggerated’ UN blacklist of child-killers in Yemen

© Khaled Abdullah
Bowing to political pressure from Riyadh, the UN has temporarily removed it from a blacklist of children’s rights violators, after a report released last week deemed the Saudi-led coalition responsible for hundreds of minors’ deaths in the Yemen conflict.

The Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) released last week claimed that the Saudi-led air bombardment and ground campaign in Yemen led to 510 child deaths and accounted for 60 percent of the entire death toll, after the air campaign against Houthi rebels began in March 2015.

The UN document also said that Saudi-led actions resulted in some 667 child injuries. Furthermore, the reports stated that half of the attacks had been carried out on schools and hospitals.

“Grave violations against children increased dramatically as a result of the escalating conflict,” the report said. “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.”

While the Houthis, Yemen government forces and pro-government militia have been on the UN blacklist for at least five years, Riyadh on Monday demanded that its name be scrapped from the list, claiming that figures in the CAAC report were “wildly exaggerated,” because the coalition uses “the most up-to-date equipment in precision targeting.”

“We are asking that this report be corrected immediately so it does not reflect the accusations that have been made against the coalition and Saudi Arabia in particular,” Saudi Arabia's UN Envoy Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said Monday. “If there are any casualties from the coalition side, they would be far, far lower.”

Following the plea by Saudi Arabia, Ban Ki-moon's office said that UN will temporarily remove Riyadh from the list pending a joint review by the world body.

“On the CAAC report, he accepts a proposal by Saudi Arabia that the United Nations and the Saudi-led Coalition review jointly the cases and numbers cited in the text,” the Secretary-General’s office said in a statement. “Pending the conclusions of the joint review, the Secretary-General removes the listing of the Coalition in the report's annex.”

Tensions in Yemen escalated after Shia President Saleh was deposed in 2012 and his Houthi supporters, reportedly aided by Iran, eventually seized the capital city Sana’a in 2014. Houthi forces then advanced from Sana’a towards the south, seizing large parts of Yemen, and sending the current Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

In late March of last year, a Saudi Arabian-led coalition responded with airstrikes in order to stop Houthi advances and reinstate Hadi back in power. By late summer 2015, the Saudi-led forces had started a ground operation. Despite a temporarily cease-fire achieved in May, the conflict remains ongoing. According to the UN, from March 2015 to March 2016 over 6,500 people were killed in Yemen, including 3,218 civilians.