In a shocking decision, the United Nations has removed a Saudi-led coalition from a list of violators involved in Yemen’s war — drawing backlash from critics who say the global body is looking the other way with other offenders.
New York-based human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said the Saudi coalition was delisted from the Children and Armed Conflict report’s “list of shame,” despite the fact it was responsible for more than 300 child casualties and multiple attacks on Yemeni schools and hospitals.
This shows powerful parties can kill and maim children or attack schools and hospitals with impunity, the agency warned.
This follows a dangerous pattern started at least since 2016 by the previous Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, when he admitted he would not list the Saudi and Emirati led coalition for violations in Yemen because of the political pressure he was under.
The decision to list warring parties in the report should be free from political pressure or considerations, including from permanent members of the UN Security Council or countries with powerful friends.
It should be based on one consideration only: does the UN have verified data showing a pattern of grave violations against children’s rights during war ?
The United Nations’ systematic failure to take positive steps to hold the Saudi-led coalition responsible is because it is subject to the nation-states it represents and dependent on their funds.
Saudi, for instance, was able to force the United Nations to withdraw the Saudi-led coalition from the annual UN “list of shame” for violations against children in Yemen.
The withdrawal supposedly came after Saudi threatened to pull hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to the United Nations.
What is different about Yemen is that the main state preventing the UN from taking decisive action is Saudi, which is not a member of the UN Security Council and, even if it was, would not have veto power.
However, two of Saudi’s biggest supporters are the United States and United Kingdom, both permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The United States and United Kingdom have strong economic and security relations with Saudi.
They are dependent on Saudi oil. The Gulf country is also a major customer of arms from the United States and United Kingdom.
The UN failed to protect civilians and showed a lack of political will to stop atrocities.
The secretary-general has brought shame on the U.N. by removing the Saudi-led coalition from his ‘list of shame’ even as it continues to kill and injure children in Yemen,” said Jo Becker, HRW children’s rights advocacy director.
Mainwell, Human rights groups have criticized the UN for removing the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen from a blacklist of those whose actions harm children.
The UN found 222 children were killed or injured last year by the coalition.
Five years of war have devastated Yemen, reportedly killed more than 100,000 people, and triggered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
A United Nations investigation in August 2018 found that airstrikes which killed thousands of civilians, as well as rape and torture committed war crimes.
An estimated 85,000 children have died of starvation and disease, and on average, 37 children are killed each month by foreign-made bombs.
These and other atrocities have led to calls for this list to shine a spotlight on the actions and identities of perpetrators of war violations against children.
The UN failed to hold the Saudi and Emirati led coalition to account for killing and injuring at least 222 children, and at least four incidents of attacks on schools and hospitals verified by the UN in 2019.
Human rights groups said the decision left children vulnerable to further attacks.
As Adrianne Lapar, director of Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, said the delisting “sends the message that powerful actors can get away with killing children”
Save the Children Director of Policy and International Programs Mat Tinkler said publishing an accurate list was a simple and effective way to protect children caught in the conflict in Yemen, by holding those responsible to account.
Immediate steps must be taken to protect Yemen’s children and to hold those who have caused them harm to account,” Mr Tinkler said.
The fact that the dynamics at the UN have posed dramatic consequences into Yemen war, the United Nations should consider how first to push Saudi Arabia, the United States, and United Kingdom to demonstrate a political desire in ending the Yemen war.
The United Nations can capitalize on its role as a mediator and bring the focus to long term human and financial costs.
Yemen’s children remain under attack. For more than five years now, they have been killed and injured in their homes, on their way to school and at the marketplace. They have even been bombed in hospitals and at funerals for their friends.
By bowing to political pressure, the UN is undermining its position, Save the Children warned . The tragedy is that now more than ever the world cannot afford to let that happen.
For 75 years the UN has been the force for peace in the world and it should be the ultimate defender of children’s safety, especially in war in Yemen.
To end Yemen’s war and stabilize the country requires a well-thought out approach that balances the need for security with transitional justice and establishing a responsive, democratic government.
This is no small task, but the first step is convincing the Saudi-led coalition this is in its best interests.
One of the simplest mechanisms to help stop this war on children is for the UN Secretary General to name and shame an aggression coalition.