UN takes Saudi coalition off Yemen list of child violators pending review

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UNITED NATIONS, June 7 (APP): Following a strong complaint from Saudi Arabia, the United Nations Monday removed the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen from a child rights blacklist pending a joint review by the U.N. and the coalition of the cases of child deaths and injuries, a world body’s spokesman said.

But Saudi Arabia’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi insisted “the
removal is unconditional and irreversible,” explaining that the government has no problem with a review and is confident it will conclude that the coalition was “wrongly placed on the list.”

“We know that this removal is final,” he added.

The U.N. report on children and armed conflict – released last Thursday
– said the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year, killing 510 and wounding 667, and half the attacks on schools and hospitals.

The ambassador said Saudi Arabia’s inclusion on the list was based on “inaccurate and incomplete information.”

Following the Saudi protest, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon agreed to  a joint review that would involve the coalition, examining the cases cited in the report.

“Pending the conclusions of the joint review, the secretary-general
removes the listing of the coalition in the report’s annex,” the secretary-general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement.

The secretary-general’s annual report said the U.N. verified a total of
1,953 youngsters killed and injured in 2015 – a six-fold increase in the number of child casualties in Yemen compared with 2014. About 60 percent of those casualties were attributed to the coalition. The U.N.

said it also verified 101 attacks on schools and hospitals last year, double the number in 2014, of which 48 percent were attributed to the coalition.

Al-Mouallimi called the casualty figures attributed to the coalition
“wildly exaggerated” saying “the casualties are far lower.”

A statement late Monday from U.N. spokesman Dujarric said Ban accepted a  Saudi proposal for a joint U.N.-Saudi review of the cases and numbers in the report and invited the coalition to send a team to New York as soon as possible for detailed discussions before the Security Council examines its findings in August.

Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights
Watch, said his organization and others have also documented the impact of coalition airstrikes on children, schools and hospitals.

He accused the secretary-general’s office of engaging in “political
manipulation” and tainting his human rights legacy.

“After giving a similar pass to Israel last year, the U.N.
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.”

In Yemen, the Houthis have held Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since September  2014, and their advance across the Arab world’s poorest country brought the Saudi-led coalition into the war in March 2015. The U.N. says over 6,000 people have been killed.

The United Nations declared a truce on April 10 to pave the way for
peace talks that started a week later in Kuwait.

But the fragile truce has been marred with violations and breaches by
both sides as clashes and airstrikes led by the coalition continued in different areas across the country.

“The timing of this report is most unfortunate because it comes as we
are hoping for a breakthrough in the discussions in Kuwait leading to an agreement and hopefully an end to the conflict,” Al-Mouallimi said.

Saudi Arabia had not been consulted prior to the publication of this
year’s report, Mouallimi added.