Saudi Arabia rejects UN blacklisting for crimes against children

Saudi Arabia rejects UN blacklisting for crimes against children
Riyadh's ambassador to the UN slams the latest report as "inaccurate," while rights groups say it does not go far enough in detailing alleged Saudi war crimes.
2 min read
07 October, 2017
The Saudi-led coalition allegedly killed or maimed 683 children in Yemen last year [AFP]

Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected a UN report that blacklists the Saudi-led military coalition for harming and killing hundreds of children in its Yemen campaign.

The coalition is responsible for the deaths and injuries of 683 children last year, according to UN figures released on Thursday.

"We express our strong reservation in respect to this information," said Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, at the international body's headquarters in New York.

"We exercise the maximum degree of care and precaution to avoid civilian harm," he added.

The annual report Children and Armed Conflict Report noted that the military coalition had taken some steps to protect children from harm, however still accused it of at least 38 attacks on schools.

Mouallimi slammed the figures as "inaccurate and misleading."

The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen's civil war in March 2015 in an attempt to restore the authority of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Hadi had lost vast areas of territory to Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who were also blacklisted in the CAAC report.

More than two years on, Yemen's war has claimed over 10,000 lives, displaced millions and facilitated a deadly outbreak of cholera.

Despite it blacklisting the Saudi-led coalition, rights groups have said that the 2017 CAAC report does not go far enough.

"Every time the United Nations makes concessions that allow perpetrators of crimes under international law to evade criticism or justice, it emboldens others to commit violations that cause immense misery to people around the world," said Sherine Tadros, Head of UN office in New York for Amnesty International.

Amnesty also criticised the UN for having "caved in to pressure" by including a new category in the report that recognises alleged efforts by the coalition to improve child protection.

The rights watchdog says it has "seen no evidence of such measures".

Last year, the UN came under fire from rights groups after omitting the Saudi-led coalition from the 2016 blacklist.

Despite initially including the military coalition, it was later removed by then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said the u-turn decision came under "unacceptable" pressure from Saudi Arabia and its allies.

The oil-rich kingdom and its Gulf allies had threatened to withdraw funding from the UN, causing Ban to make the "painful" decision.