Is the UN being too soft by only applying sanctions to Saudi-led coalition for the killing of Yemenis? The UN has sanctioned war and occupation against countries like Iraq for far less than what the Saudis are doing in Yemen.
The world body said on October 5 that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for 683 child casualties and 38 verified attacks on schools and hospitals in 2016. More than 12,000 people have died since the onset of the attacks, according to the latest tallies by the local monitoring group.
The annual blacklist of countries responsible for child deaths was released by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on October 5 [reports below]. The report said the actions of the Riyadh-led alliance in Yemen “objectively led to that party being listed for the killing and maiming of children.” Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan are part of the Saudi-led coalition which has been bombarding Yemen since early 2015 to restore a Riyadh-friendly government. In an apparent attempt to avoid Saudi anger, Guterres held talks with King Salman before releasing the list, which does not subject those on the list to any UN action.
Also on Press TV:
More than 11 million Yemeni children in dire need of aid, warns UN, Press TV, Oct 23, 2017
UN blacklists Saudi-led coalition for killing children in Yemen
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations blacklisted a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition on Thursday [October 5] for killing and injuring 683 children in Yemen and attacking dozens of schools and hospitals in 2016, even as it said the coalition had taken action to improve child protection. 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.
The UN report said the Houthis and affiliated forces killed and injured 414 children in 2016. The report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was submitted to the Security Council on October 5 and was seen by Reuters. A draft of the blacklist was reported by Reuters two days earlier.
The actions of the Saudi-led coalition “objectively led” to it being blacklisted for killing and injuring 683 children and for 38 attacks on schools and hospitals last year, the report said, adding that all incidents were verified by the UN.
The coalition had been briefly added to the blacklist in 2016 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.
Guterres spoke with Saudi King Salman by phone on Wednesday. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “They had a very positive discussion on issues of mutual interest, including the situation in the Middle East and beyond.”
Saudi UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi plans to hold a news conference on Friday.
Yemen has been devastated by more than two years of civil war in which President Abd-Rabu 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.
UN sanctions monitors reported to the Security Council in January that the Saudi-led coalition had carried out attacks in Yemen that “may amount to war crimes.” Riyadh denies the allegation.
The UN sanctions monitors said at the time that the coalition was made up of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.
The coalition has received limited [sic] U.S. support, including in logistics. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are major recipients of U.S. arms. Saudi Arabia is also a major customer of British defense companies.
“The coalition needs to stop making empty promises to exercise caution, take concrete action to stop these deadly unlawful attacks in Yemen, and allow desperately needed fuel and aid to reach those in need,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Until this happens, governments should suspend all Saudi weapons sales,” she said.
The annual children and armed conflict report is produced at the request of the UN Security Council. In 2015 the United Nations left Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas off the blacklist, after they had been included in an earlier draft, but criticized Israel over its 2014 military operations.
Annual report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict
Following the sending of the Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict to the Security Council, the Spokesman is releasing the following press release:
Boys and girls living in countries affected by armed conflict have been victims of widespread violations in 2016, as documented in the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict released today and covering the period from January to December 2016.
The alarming scale and severity of violations against children in 2016 – including shocking levels of killing and maiming, recruitment and use and denial of humanitarian access – is a serious concern for the Secretary-General.
“The tragic fate of child victims of conflict cannot and must not leave us unmoved; a child killed, recruited as a soldier, injured in an attack or prevented from going school due to a conflict is already one too many,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, said.
Children from countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, suffer an unacceptable level of violations by parties to conflict, with at least 4,000 verified violations committed by Government Forces and over 11,500 by non-State armed groups in the 20 country situations covered in the report.
In Syria alone, the number of children recruited and used during the reporting period more than doubled compared to 2015, with 851 verified cases. In Somalia, this number reached 1,915 children recruited and used. Afghanistan recorded the highest number of verified child casualties since the UN started documentation of civilian casualties in 2009, with 3,512 children killed or maimed in 2016, an increase of 24% compare to the previous year.
Abhorrent tactics used by armed groups like Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIL and the Taliban, have included sexual violence and the use of children as human bombs. In Nigeria, the majority of children casualties resulted from the use of children as human bombs and deaths by suicide attacks.
“The level of violations against children is completely unacceptable and merely indicative of the scale of suffering of children as access constraints limit our ability to have the full picture,” Ms. Gamba said. “Such abuses have a dramatic impact, not only on the lives of children, but also on the social fabric of society in affected countries and on global peace and security,” she added.
The denial of humanitarian access by armed groups and Government forces was a disturbing trend in the report, with devastating consequences for children. Attacks on schools and hospitals have also been widely documented in 2016, occurring in almost all countries on the children and armed conflict agenda and depriving thousands of children of their right to education.
In Yemen, a total of at least 1,340 children were killed or maimed. The same happened in Syria to at least 1,299 children.
Detention of children by government forces or armed groups has also been widespread during the reporting period including in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Israel and State of Palestine, Libya, Nigeria and Somalia. The report emphasized that children should be treated primarily as victims, not as perpetrators, and that international juvenile justice standards should apply.
Abductions, included for the second year as a trigger for listing in the annexes of the Annual Report, also showed an increase in documented incidents. In Central African Republic, reported cases almost doubled compared to 2015, with 98 children abducted. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a total of 193 children were abducted, leading to the listing of three new non-state armed groups.
Milestones and developments
Although new parties are listed, including in Afghanistan, DRC, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, there was also progress to report. UN engagement lead to several positive developments in 2016, including the delisting of two parties, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Philippines.
Moreover, the signature of the Peace Agreement in Colombia, including a special agreement on the release and reintegration of children, resulted in a decrease of documented violations against children. The signature of two new Actions Plans, with the Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA) in Mali and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Sudan also confirmed the benefits of continuing dialogue with non-State armed groups.
In relation to Yemen, the United Nations was informed of measures taken by the Coalition in 2016 to reduce the impact of conflict on children including through their rules of engagement and the establishment of a joint incident assessment team mandated to review all incidents involving civilian casualties and identify corrective actions. At the time of preparation of this report, Saudi Arabia has created a child protection unit at the coalition headquarters.
In addition to documenting the grave violations committed against children in 2016, the report highlights country-specific developments and concerns, to outline both progress made and ongoing issues that need to be addressed. This approach should lead to enhanced engagement with parties in the report, aiming to sign and implement Action Plans. This will increase protection for children, accountability for perpetrators and allow for greater focus on the prevention of the six grave violations.
Among concerning trends, the report highlights the denial of humanitarian access, deprivation of liberty resulting from increased security screenings, including for displaced populations, and the use of militias and international coalitions, which demonstrates the need for accountability and the application of agreed safeguards to protect civilian populations, in particular children.
Building on best practices, child protection capacities and reintegration mechanisms should be provided with adequate resources, as a key element to peace and security in war-affected regions, the report highlights. “In some countries, like Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Somalia or Syria, young children have only experienced war and violence. It is our collective responsibility not to let these children down,” Ms. Gamba added. Partnerships with sub-regional organizations were highlighted in the report as multipliers to reduce violations affecting children and strengthening of child protection capacities on the ground.
Yemen: UN report urges probe into rights violations amid ‘entirely man-made catastrophe’
The United Nations human rights chief has called for an independent, international investigation into the allegations of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Yemen in a new report published today.
“An international investigation would go a long way in putting on notice the parties to the conflict that the international community is watching and determined to hold to account perpetrators of violations and abuses,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a news release on the report.
“I appeal to all the parties to the conflict, those supporting them and those with influence over them to have mercy on the people of Yemen, and to take immediate measures to ensure humanitarian relief for civilians and justice for the victims of violations,” he added.
According to the report, which records violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law since September 2014, such acts continue unabated in Yemen, with civilians suffering deeply the consequences of an “entirely man-made catastrophe.”
Between March 2015, when the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) began reporting on civilian casualties, and 30 August, at least 5,144 civilians have been documented as killed and more than 8,749 injured.
Children accounted for 1,184 of those who were killed and 1,592 of those injured. Coalition airstrikes continued to be the leading cause of child casualties as well as overall civilian casualties. Some 3,233 of the civilians killed were reportedly killed by Coalition forces.
The report states that the past year witnessed airstrikes against funeral gatherings and small civilian boats, in addition to markets, hospitals, schools, residential areas, and other public and private infrastructure.
The Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis and the army units loyal to former President Abdullah Saleh (the Houthi/Saleh forces) were responsible for some 67 per cent of the 1,702 cases of recruitment of children for use in hostilities.
The report stresses that “the minimal efforts towards accountability in the past year are wholly insufficient to respond to the gravity of violations and abuses continuing every day in Yemen,” adding that the National Commission established to investigate human rights violations in Yemen is not perceived to be impartial.
The report also found that the governorates most affected by the conflict were Aden, Al-Hudaydah, Sana’a and Taizz.
The humanitarian crisis – with nearly 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian aid and 7.3 million on the brink of famine – is a direct result of the behaviour of parties to the conflict, including indiscriminate attacks, attacks against civilians and protected objects, sieges, blockades and restrictions on movement, the report states.
“In many cases, information obtained…suggested that civilians may have been directly targeted, or that operations were conducted heedless of their impact on civilians without regard to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. In some cases, information suggested that no actions were taken to mitigate the impact of operations on civilians,” the report states.