The UN chief’s annual report to the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict released Monday, took the Saudi-led coalition off the global blacklist of parties whose actions have harmed children in conflict, a move that drew immediate protests from human rights groups.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said in his report that the coalition of Arab nations supporting Yemen’s exiled government would “be delisted for the violation of killing and maiming, following a sustained significant decrease in [casualties]due to airstrikes” and the implementation of measures aimed at protecting children.
This is despite the report finding that the coalition was responsible for the killing and maiming of 222 children last year including 171 from airstrikes.
Human Rights Watch accused the UN chief of ignoring evidence of grave violations.
Five years of conflict have devastated Yemen, reportedly killed more than 100,000 people, and triggered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
The UN secretary general’s report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict said 4,042 grave violations against 2,159 children in Yemen were verified last year.
In total, at least 395 children were killed and 1,447 children were maimed.
It attributed 313 children killed or injured to the Houthis, 222 to the Saudi-led coalition, 96 to the coalition-backed Yemeni armed forces, 51 to militias opposed to the Houthis, five to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and two to the Islamic State group.
Parties were also responsible for the recruitment of children, detentions, abductions, sexual violence, and attacks on schools and hospitals, the report said.
Despite the alleged violations, Mr. Guterres said the Saudi-led coalition would be removed from its global list of state and non-state parties that had failed to put in place measures to protect children.
He cited “a sustained, significant decrease in killing and maiming due to air strikes” and the implementation of a memorandum of understanding that called for a programme of activities to strengthen prevention and protection measures.
But Mr. Guterres added the programme would be monitored for 12 months and that “any failure in this regard would result in relisting for the same violation”.
Human rights groups said the decision left children vulnerable to further attacks.
“The secretary-general is adding a new level of shame to his ‘list of shame’ by removing the Saudi-led coalition and ignoring the UN’s own evidence of continued grave violations against children,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
Adrianne Lapar, director of Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, said the delisting “sends the message that powerful actors can get away with killing children” and called for “an independent, objective, transparent assessment of the process leading to the decision”.
When asked if Saudi Arabia had exerted pressure on the UN, Mr. Guterres’ envoy for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, said: “Absolutely not.”
The coalition had been on the blacklist for three years.
It was added in 2016, but subsequently removed following protests from Saudi Arabia. Then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the kingdom of exerting “unacceptable” pressure on the UN, with allied countries allegedly threatening to cut off vital funding for aid programmes. (Source: BBC)