The United Nations is under fire for bowing to intense political pressure from Saudi Arabia by sweeping under the carpet the crimes committed against children and innocent people by the Saudi-Emirati coalition in Yemen.
“By giving undue praise to perpetrators of grave violations against children, the UN Secretary-General has downplayed the deadly repercussions of war on children,” Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, charged this week.
A military coalition spearheaded and bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and armed by the UK, US, France and Germany, has been relentlessly and andomly bombing schools and hospitals and family gatherings, killing and maiming 729 children out of a total of 1 689 child casualties documented by the UN in 2018.
The Yemeni war, being fought against the Houthis, has been branded the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with nearly three million children under five and pregnant or lactating women acutely malnourished. 14 million people at risk of starvation, nearly 7 000 killed and 11 000 injured. There are also more than two million others living in camps for internal displaced people (IDPs) across the country.
Many experts and children’s rights activists were expecting that the UN would come out guns blazing against these war crimes and crimes against humanity in its latest report on children and armed conflict.
But they were quickly disappointed when the report, published on July 30 (Tuesday), seemed to have hugged the Saudis and the Emiratis and their partners, instead of naming and shaming them, despite confirming that the coalition committed 15 such attacks in 2018,
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict regretted that the UN has placed the coalition in a category for those that have “put in place measures aimed at improving the protection of children” for the third consecutive year.
“The Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition has unabatedly continued to violate the rights of children in Yemen, yet is not being held accountable. The thousands of children killed or seriously injured by coalition airstrikes deserve justice, not empty promises,” the NGO programme director Adrianne Lapar said in a statement.
In recent years, the process for determining which perpetrators are included in the report has become increasingly politicised, the organisation, which is a network of independent voices that advocate for children in war zones, said.
In 2016, following intense political pressure from Saudi Arabia, then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon removed the Saudi-led coalition from his list for killing and maiming children in Yemen.
In 2017, Secretary-General Guterres included the Saudi-led coalition, but placed it in a new category for those that had supposedly put in place measures to protect children, it explained. “In 2018, he again listed the coalition for killing and maiming children, but ‘delisted’ it for attacks on schools and hospitals, despite the fact that it was responsible for the vast majority of such attacks in 2017.”