The UN refused a request from Saudi Arabia to reveal sources of information on the killing and maiming of children in Yemen. The UN has held the Saudi-led coalition responsible for 60 percent of kids’ deaths in Yemen.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric made it clear on Wednesday that the sources of information for its report on violations of children’s rights during armed conflicts would not be revealed to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen is made up of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.
“Protecting the sources of information that are used in this report, or any other report, is paramount, especially in a conflict area,” Dujarric said. “But we obviously welcome any information that the Saudi-led coalition may want to share with us.”
The UN report on children and armed conflict said the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in the Yemen conflict last year, killing 510 and wounding 667 children. The coalition began an air campaign in March 2015 to defeat Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
Removing the coalition from a blacklist
Last Thursday, Ban said he temporarily removed the US-backed coalition from the blacklist for violating child rights pending a joint review of cases because its supporters threatened to stop funding many UN programs, including a Palestinian aid program. Ban accused some unnamed countries of exerting unacceptable and “undue pressure.”
Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi wrote to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on behalf of the coalition requesting the sources and other information. He thanked Ban for removing the coalition from the blacklist and stated it “deeply regrets every human casualty in Yemen and reaffirms its commitment to taking every possible measure to protect all civilians in Yemen.”
The report stated the UN verified a total of 1,953 young people killed and injured in Yemen in 2015. This represented a six-fold increase compared with 2014 and it attributed about 60 percent of those casualties to the coalition. The UN said it also verified 101 attacks on schools and hospitals last year, double the number in 2014, of which 48 percent were attributed to the coalition.
Human rights groups have criticized Ban for removing the coalition from the blacklist, accusing him of giving in to pressure from powerful groups. They said Ban risked harming his legacy as UN chief. Ban is in the final year of his second term as secretary general.
In Al-Mouallimi’s letter to Ban, he said it was also ready to cooperate with UN bodies “to exchange information” and invited a team of experts to visit coalition headquarters in Riyadh to “jointly review the cases and number in the report to ensure objectivity and accuracy.”
The secretary-general had invited the coalition to New York, and Dujarric said that “would be our preference.”
jm/sms (Reuters, AP)