Yemen in Focus: HRW says UN move to remove Saudi-led coalition from child-killer blacklist 'shameful'

Yemen in Focus: HRW says UN move to remove Saudi-led coalition from child-killer blacklist 'shameful'
Human Rights Watch has slammed as 'shameful' a move by the United Nations to remove the Saudi-led coalition from a blacklist of children killers, despite numerous recent violations.
4 min read
19 June, 2020
Mohammed bin Salman has spearheaded the conflict [AFP]

The United Nation’s latest decision to remove the Saudi-led coalition from a blacklist of warring parties responsible for killing children was “shameful”, Human Rights Watch told The New Arab.

The move, announced by UN chief Antonio Guterres, undermines both the global body and its chief, Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The New Arab.

“It not only reflects the ignorance or the deliberate dismissal of mounting evidence of violations against children in Yemen, as shown by many rights organisations, but also the the UN’s own reports,” Nasser said.

“It’s just shocking and disappointing. Guterres is undermining his own credibility and the UN’s credibility in Yemen. It’s clear that the road for justice for Yemen’s victims is a very long one, but we have to continue marching on and continue the work and the struggle to hold all those war criminals to account,” she added.

The comments came after Guterres on Monday said the coalition - led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE - would "be delisted for the violation of killing and maiming, following a sustained significant decrease in killing and maiming due to air strikes".

He warned that the coalition's actions in Yemen will be monitored and "any failure" to reduce the number of child casualties would result in it being added back onto the blacklist next year.

Just hours later, the Saudi-led coalition struck a vehicle in the capital Sanaa, killing at least 13 civilians, including women and four children.

The Houthi rebel-run Health Ministry identified 11 victims, including a woman and four children, aged 12-14, on the northwestern highway. Ministry spokesman Youssef al-Hadri said another two bodies were burned beyond recognition.

The group was on their way home from a local market when they were suddenly bombed, said Save the Children.

"This tragedy is yet more proof that, even though the war in Yemen has dropped off the radar of many people, it is still far from over," said Xavier Joubert, Yemen's country director for international aid group Save the Children.

On Wednesday, the Saudi-led coalition quickly scrambled to deny targeting Yemeni civilians in air strikes.

Even with such denials, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread international criticism for air strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. 

Yemen’s northwestern border with Saudi Arabia is a frequent target for Saudi warplanes, which closely track convoys in the region and have made many errors over the years.

Yemen's conflict erupted in 2014, when Houthi rebels seized much of the country’s north, including the capital, Sanaa.

A US-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to oust the Iran-allied Houthis and restore the internationally recognised government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Read also: Yemen in Focus: Houthi rebels slammed for imposing 'discriminatory' religious tax

The war has killed over 112,000 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, including 12,000 civilians. Aerial bombings and intense ground fighting have destroyed thousands of buildings, leaving half of Yemen's hospitals dysfunctional.

The conflict has only escalated as the country’s devastated health system struggles to cope with a major coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, the internationally recognized government recorded 116 new infections, including 36 deaths, its biggest daily jump yet.

The Houthis have refused to release their coronavirus case count, saying such publicity causes panic. Although testing remains extremely limited nationwide, a dramatic spike in deaths among those suffering from Covid-19 symptoms indicates the pandemic is surging across the Arab world’s poorest country.

The total number of deaths currently stands at 244, with 902 infections, though hundreds of 'mysterious' deaths with Covid-19-like symptoms have been recorded across the country.

On Saturday, the Yemeni Embassy in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, announced on Twitter it was shuttering indefinitely due to a number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus among staff.

The embassy did not specify how many people had contracted Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency announced on Thursday that more than 94,000 people have been displaced and forced to flee their homes in several parts of Yemen since January, a grim statistic reflecting the devastation brought on by the civil war in the Arab world's most impoverished country.

"The ongoing conflict in Yemen continues to displace people from their homes as they struggle to survive," UNHCR said in a tweet.

The agency said the number of over 94,000 - including at least 15,000 households - were displaced between Jan. 1 and June 6. Only about 5,200 people were able to return to their places of origin in that period, added the UNHCR.

Yemen In Focus is a regular feature from The New Arab.

Sana Uqba is a journalist at The New Arab. 

Follow her on Twitter: @Sanasiino