'Saudi pressure' forces UN backtrack on Yemen child deaths

'Saudi pressure' forces UN backtrack on Yemen child deaths
The Saudi-led intervention force has been removed from a report saying its bombing of Yemen has killed hundreds of children, after pressure from Riyadh, critics say.
2 min read
07 June, 2016
A Yemeni child in the country's capital of Sanaa, 2016 [AFP]

The United Nations has removed the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen from a blacklist of states and groups violaiting children's human rights during wartime.

The reversal comes just days after the UN named the pro-government coalition in Yemen - dominated by Saudi Arabia and backed by other Gulf states - as responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children in air raids.

A report issued by the UN on Thursday about 'war and children' said that the military coalition was responsible for 510 child deaths - 60 percent of the total number - and 667 child injuries over the past year.

It also stated that half of the coalition's attacks were on schools and hospitals.

Joint review?

Then the oil-rich kingdom stepped in. Shortly after, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the claims in the report would be reviewed jointly by the international body and the military coalition.

"Pending the conclusions of the joint review, the secretary-general removes the listing of the coalition in the report's annex," Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

The UN secretary-general's office has hit a new low by capitulating to Saudi Arabia's brazen pressure.
- Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch

Saudi Arabia's envoy to the UN, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, said that the removal of the coalition from the blacklist was "irreversible and unconditional".

"We were wrongly placed on the list," he told reporters. "We know that this removal is final."

Mouallimi also said that the figures in the report were "wildly exaggerated" and that "the casualties are far lower" than what was stated. Saudi Arabia was not consulted before the publication of the report, he complained.

Yemen child deaths
The UN said that Saudi Arabia is responsible
for 60% of child deaths in Yemen last year [AFP]

'Political manipulation'

Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch, blasted the UN Secretary-General's office for engaging in "political manipulation" by conceding to the Saudi complaint.

"After giving a similar pass to Israel last year, the UN secretary-general's office has hit a new low by capitulating to Saudi Arabia's brazen pressure and taking the country off its just published list of shame," Bolopion said. "Yemen's children deserve better."