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The UN's decision could raise the stakes for children in conflict, rights groups warned. (Photo: Reuters)

Caving to Saudis, UN Takes Coalition Off Blacklist in 'Shocking Flip-Flop'

'It is unprecedented for the UN to bow to pressure to alter its own published report on children in armed conflict'

Nadia Prupis

Just a few days after blacklisting the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition for killing children in Yemen, the United Nations on Monday removed the group from its tally of armed states that violate children's rights during conflict.

Amnesty International blasted the UN for "shamefully" caving to pressure to scrub the coalition from the so-called "list of shame" after an annual report found that the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed group was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015.

"It is unprecedented for the UN to bow to pressure to alter its own published report on children in armed conflict. It is unconscionable that this pressure was brought to bear by one of the very states listed in the report," said Richard Bennett, representative and head of Amnesty International's UN Office.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reportedly agreed to a joint review, conducted by the UN and the Saudi coalition, of the cases cited in the report—which included attacks on schools and hospitals—after a complaint from Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, called the report "wildly exaggerated." While Ban claimed that the removal of the coalition from the blacklist was temporary pending the results of the review, which he said would aim to "reflect the highest standards of accuracy possible," the Saudi government hailed it as a victory.

Al-Mouallimi called the decision "final and unconditional" and said he had been "vindicated."

Amnesty described the UN's actions as a "shocking flip-flop" that could raise the stakes for children in conflict.

"This is a stark example of why the UN needs to stand up for human rights and its own principles—otherwise it will rapidly become part of the problem rather than the solution," Bennett said. "By taking a step further, the Secretary-General has set a dangerous precedent that will put the lives of children in countries in conflict at even greater risk."

Philippe Bolopion, deputy director of global advocacy at Human Rights Watch, added, "The UN secretary general's office has hit a new low by capitulating to Saudi Arabia's brazen pressure and taking the country off its just published list of shame. Yemen's children deserve better."

"As the UN list of shame gives way to political manipulation, it loses its credibility and taints the Secretary-General's legacy on human rights," he said.


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