HRW denounces Saudi-led coalition's removal from UN's 'children killers' blacklist

HRW denounces Saudi-led coalition's removal from UN's 'children killers' blacklist
The Saudi-led coalition was placed on the blacklist after the high number of children killed during the war.
3 min read
16 June, 2020
Saudi Arabia has led a devastating air campaign in Yemen [Getty]
Human rights groups have slammed the UN's decision on Monday for removing the Saudi-led coalition from a blacklist of warring parties responsible for the deaths and injuries of children, three years after it was first shamed for its devastating intervention in the Yemen war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that 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.

Saudi Arabia was responsible for the deaths or injuries of 222 children in Yemen in 2019, the rebel Houthi movement for 313, and forces allied to the UN-recognised Yemen government responsible for 96 casualties, according to Reuters.

The last two will remain on the UN blacklist, which aims at shaming parties responsible for the deaths and injuries of children in war.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have repeatedly pressed the UN to remove the coalition from its list of shame, with tactics amounting to "bullying, threats, pressure", one official told Reuters.

Among the threats was to have clerics in Saudi Arabia issue a fatwa that would make it "anti-Muslim" for allied Islamic countries to participate or fund UN projects, the official added.

Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also accused Saudi Arabia of exerting "unacceptable" pressure on the UN due to the blacklist.

The UN denied that the decision to remove the Saudi-led coalition from the blacklist was due to external pressure.

"I can answer that very, very clearly - absolutely not," UN envoy for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba said on Monday.

Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, slammed the UN's decision in a statement.

"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 Becker.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in the war on the side of the Yemeni government and accused the rebel Houthi movement, which had taken over the capital Sanaa, of being aided by arch regional rival, Iran.

The war has resulted in as many as 100,000 deaths, due to fighting and air strikes, as well as disease and hunger brought about by a Saudi-led blockade on the country.

The Houthis and Saudi-allied parties have also been accused of starvation sieges inside Yemen.

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