The United Nations blacklisted a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition yesterday for killing and injuring 683 children in Yemen and attacking dozens of schools and hospitals during 2016.
The blacklist attached to the UN annual report on children in armed conflict also named the Iran-allied Houthi rebel group, Yemen government forces, pro-government militia and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for violations against children in 2016 as it did in last year’s report.
The report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been submitted to the Security Council.
The Saudi-led coalition was briefly added to the blacklist last year and then removed by then-UN chief Ban Ki-moon pending review. At the time, Ban accused Saudi Arabia of exerting “unacceptable” undue pressure after sources told Reuters that Riyadh threatened to cut some UN funding. Saudi Arabia denied threatening Ban.
In an effort to dampen controversy surrounding the report, the blacklist this year is split into two categories. One lists parties that have put in place measures to protect children, which includes the Saudi-led military coalition, and the other includes parties that have not.
The report, which was produced by UN children and armed conflict envoy Virginia Gamba and issued in Guterres’ name, does not subject those listed to UN action but rather shames parties to conflicts in the hope of pushing them to implement measures to protect children.
Yemen has been devastated by more than two years of civil war in which President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, is fighting to drive the Houthis out of cities they seized in 2014 and 2015.
More than 10,000 people have been killed and the conflict has ruined the economy and pushed millions to the brink of famine. The Houthis control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.
The military intervention launched by Saudi Arabia in 2015, leading a coalition of African and Middle East countries, has piled up miseries on the people of Yemen.
One of the biggest casualties of the war has been healthcare, which suffered near total disruption leading to a massive outbreak of cholera of which most of the victims have been children.
The number of cholera cases in Yemen could reach 1mn by the end of this year, according to the International Red Cross.
Alexandre Faite, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen has described the scale of the outbreak as “unprecedented”.
Faite said the number of suspected cases now stands at about 750,000 – up from almost 276,000 as of July 5.
He added that “given this trend, we could reach up to 1mn by the end of the year.”
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.”
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.