June 8, 2016 | Michaela Whitton
Originally published on June 2, the annual U.N. report documents the horrific violations committed against children in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen in 2015. The 40-page document claims that in the last year, the Saudi-led coalition has been responsible for 60% of child deaths and injuries in Yemen’s bloody conflict.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the U.N. complained to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon about the Gulf state’s inclusion on the list. Enraged Saudi senior diplomats claimed figures were “wildly exaggerated” and threatened Riyadh, the Saudi capital and seat of power, would use its influence to convince other Arab governments and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to sever ties with the United Nations.
Despite the fact that the Saudis’ devastating intervention in Yemen has been well-documented — and includes the targeting of schools and hospitals — the strong-arming was successful. By Monday, Ban Ki-moon had backtracked and stated he would remove the coalition from the list, pending a review by a joint U.N and Saudi panel.
U.N. credibility has been on the line for a while, in part due to the jaw-dropping allegations that peacekeepers were involved in rape and indiscriminate killings in the Central African Republic. More recently, Anders Kompass, director of field operations at the UN human rights office in Geneva — who also blew the whistle on the sexual abuse of children — resigned from the agency, citing the organization’s failure to hold officials to account.
Responding to the backtracking, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen, Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, said political power and diplomatic clout have trumped the U.N.’s duty to expose those responsible for killing and maiming Yemen’s children. Claiming the retraction of the findings is a moral failure that goes against everything the U.N is meant to stand for, he added:
“The killing of children in their homes, at schools and in hospitals should not be swept under the carpet. When the U.N. identifies crimes such as these in needs to act, regardless of who the perpetrators are.”
Amnesty International expressed similar outrage and accused the U.N. of blatant pandering:
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