From The Guardian, October 4, 2017, by Karen McVeigh.
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen has been included in a draft version of the UN’s annual blacklist for grave violations against children in conflict.
The report, parts of which have been seen by the Guardian, conceded that the coalition has put in place measures to improve child protection.
It is the first time the annual study has distinguished between parties that have introduced measures to “improve the protection of children” during the reporting period and those that have not, a move campaigners have seen as an attempt to reduce controversy.
The coalition’s inclusion in the UN list means all parties to the Yemen conflict will be named for violations. The infractions identified included the recruitment of child soldiers, bombing of schools and hospitals, and the killing and maiming of children.
“In Yemen, the coalition’s actions objectively led to the listing for the killing and maiming of children, with 683 child casualties attributed to this party, and, as a result of being responsible for 38 verified incidents, for attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016,” said a draft explanation of the blacklist. “The coalition is included in section B of Annex I, as it has put in place measures during the reporting period aimed at improving the protection of children.”
The draft annex – first seen by Reuters – also blacklists the Houthis, Yemen government forces, pro-government militia and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula for violations against children in 2016. Each of these parties featured in the UN report on violations in 2015, which was published last year.
The coalition was briefly added to the blacklist last year before it was removed pending review by Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief at the time. Ban later accused Saudi Arabia of exerting “unacceptable” and undue pressure after reports that Riyadh had warned it would cut its UN funding. Saudi Arabia denied threatening Ban.
The report is set to be published this month, before the children and armed conflict debate on 31 October. It has to be approved by António Gutteres, the current UN chief before publication and is subject to change.
Save the Children said it hoped the final version would include the Saudi-led alliance.
Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children, said: “All sides in Yemen’s war have failed to respect international law, and children have paid a terrible price. As a cholera epidemic continues to infect thousands of children every day, they are also being bombed in their homes and schools, denied humanitarian relief and forced to fight on the frontlines.
“The secretary general has stood up for Yemen’s children and for the rights of all children in conflict with this decision. Now the UN and wider international community must make sure the violations by all parties to the conflict end. Being added to this shameful list should act as a wake-up call to every party in Yemen’s conflict – and countries that are supporting or arming them.”
UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told Reuters the UN does not comment on leaked documents.
In August, following the publication of an earlier draft of the UN report, the Saudi UN mission told Reuters there was “no justification whatsoever” for including the coalition on the blacklist.
The earlier draft said about half of the 683 child casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition were killed, with the others injured. Houthi rebels and affiliated forces were responsible for nearly one-third of the total 1,340 child casualties verified by the UN in 2016, it said.
In August, human rights groups including Save the Children and Global Citizen wrote a letter to the secretary general asking him to protect Yemen’s children by naming and shaming all parties committing violations.
Rather than triggering UN action against blacklisted parties, the report seeks to shame them into implementing child protection measures.
In a separate development,the UN human rights council agreed last Friday to set up a panel to examine all allegations of human rights violations committed in Yemen’s three-year civil war and identify those responsible.