UN removes Saudi-led coalition in Yemen from black list of childkillers


The United Nations on Monday bowed to a demand by Saudi Arabia that its coalition fighting in Yemen be removed from a blacklist of nations and armed groups  responsible for killing children.

Although a spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general,  said the decision was temporary, pending a review of the evidence, human rights campaigners expressed outrage that the global body had succumbed to pressure.

Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch, said the decision was "deeply disturbing".

Last week the UN added Saudi Arabia's coalition to its annual blacklist of states and armed groups that violate children's rights during conflict.

It said it was responsible for 60 per cent of the 785 children killed in Yemen last year, where the grouping is fighting to prevent Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.

"Grave violations against children increased dramatically as a result of the escalating conflict," said Mr Ban in the report, as he blamed both sides for the killings.

The report was welcomed by charities such as Oxfam, which said a peace deal was needed more than ever.

However, the conclusions sparked anger among Saudi diplomats who lobbied the UN to be removed from the list.

Mr Ban's spokesman said the UN had agreed to review the facts contained in the report jointly with the coalition.

"Pending the conclusions of the joint review, the secretary-general removes the listing of the coalition in the report's annex," said Stephan Dujarric, who earlier had insisted the blacklist would not be changed even if the report was adjusted.

Abdullah al-Mouallimi, Saudin's permanent representative to the UN, said the removal was irreversible and that the coalition felt “vindicated” by the decision over what he said was a “wildly exaggerated” report.

The coalition began its air campaign in March 2015 – with the backing of key UN nations such as the UK and US – after Houthi rebels seized the capital and many parts of the country.

The war has left some 6,400 people dead, with more than 80 per cent of the population in desperate need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.

Last month Amnesty International revealed that coalition forces had used UK-manufactured cluster bombs in the conflict. Telegraph