Don't whitewash Saudi crimes against Yemen's children, charities warn UN

Don't whitewash Saudi crimes against Yemen's children, charities warn UN
UN warned against setting a dangerous precedent by omitting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen from a blacklist of children's rights violators.
3 min read
20 July, 2017
Saudi Arabia is accused of 'grave violations' against children in Yemen [AFP]

The United Nations has been urged by charities not to whitewash a report on violations of children's human rights, by omitting any mention of deaths and suffering caused by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The call by Save the Children and Watchlist follows the release of research that showed that the military coalition could have killed or maimed over 120 children in airstrikes last year. 

A briefing released by both charities accused the alliance of "grave violations against children" during a series of 23 attacks last year. Each attack listed involved the bombing of a school or hospital, or the killing and maiming of children.

The warning comes ahead of the release of a report next month by the UN that will blacklist violators of children's rights.

"[Children] are facing threats from all sides, they've got the threat of airstrikes from above, which are continuous – just in the past few weeks we've seen [bombs] landing on marketplaces where civilians have been killed," Caroline Anning, senior adviser at Save the Children, was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

The UN's last report into violations against children named Saudi Arabia on the blacklist, only to be removed a few days later after pressure from Riyadh.

The report said that the Saudi-led alliance was accountable for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015 - a claim that Riyadh described as "wildly exaggerated".

Riyadh threatened to withdraw funding for the UN and urged its allies to do the same, causing the international body to backtrack on its report.

Save the Children say that the UN will set a dangerous precedent if it fails to blacklist the Saudi-led alliance in this year's report.

"If there is no accountability, if groups that are fighting think they can use their political influence - and if they're powerful enough and rich enough, then they can get away with killing and injuring children, or bombing schools and hospitals - it sets a really dangerous precedent not just for Yemen but for conflicts around the world," said Anning.

Human rights groups also say that by blacklisting the Saudi-led coalition, states will find it harder to sell arms to the oil-rich Gulf state.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in Yemen's civil war in March 2015 in a bid to restore the authority of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The war has been in stalemate for much of the last two years, with more than 10,000 civilians killed and three million displaced. 

Over 4,000 children have been killed or injured in the conflict.

The fighting has pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine, and a cholera outbreak in recent months has killed more than 1,700 people.