UN Adds US-Supported Saudi Coalition to 'List of Shame' for Killing Children in Yemen

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UN Adds US-Supported Saudi Coalition to 'List of Shame' for Killing Children in Yemen

Rights campaigners note it is the first time an international coalition has been added to blacklist of armed groups and states

Saudi forces take part in military exercises in Yemen in September 2015. (Photo: Ahmed Farwan/flickr/cc)

The United Nations has blacklisted the Saudi Arabia-led coalition for maiming and killing scores of children with its campaign in Yemen.

According to an annual report on children and armed conflict released by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of a total of 510 deaths and 667 woundings in 2015 after its campaign began in March—a six-fold increase, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) separately pointed out.

"Grave violations against children increased dramatically as a result of the escalating conflict," Ban said in the report (pdf).

The coalition now joins other actors involved in the civil war, including the Houthis, Yemeni forces, and pro-government militia, that have also been placed on the blacklist of states and armed groups who violate children's rights amid conflict.

International human rights groups warned in March that the flow of weapons to Saudi Arabia has "facilitated appalling crimes" in Yemen, and that the U.S. and other Western nations are complicit in the deaths of children there due to their continued allegiance with the Persian Gulf nation.

As HRW Finberg Fellow Kristine Beckerle wrote on Thursday, "The conflict in Yemen has taken a devastating toll on the country's children. In order to help end these grave violations, the international community should take immediate action, including suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and forming an international mechanism to investigate violations by all sides."

The UN report blacklists those that "engage in the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children, the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals and attacks or threats of attacks against protected personnel, and the abduction of children."

However, it stops short of placing the U.S. on that list despite making mention of its deadly airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last year—which the medical charity and other human rights groups have labeled a "war crime."

Instead, the report claims, that attack was carried out by "international forces."

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Kirsty McNeill, director of advocacy and campaigns at Save the Children, told the Independent that the sanctioning of the coalition was the first time an international military alliance had been placed on the "list of shame."

Western nations "must now urgently suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia while they risk being used in Yemen in violation of international law and throw its weight behind calls by the UNHCR, the Commons International Development Committee and Save the Children to back an international, impartial investigation into alleged violations by all sides," McNeill said.

Ban stated in his report that accountability for the deaths and maiming of children in Yemen must be a "shared responsibility."

As Beckerle concluded, "The time to shoulder that responsibility is now."

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