January 22, 2018

U.N. Draft Blacklist of Child Killers Includes Saudi Arabia

U.N. Draft Blacklist of Child Killers Includes Saudi Arabia

It was compiled by Virginia Gamba, the secretary general’s special representative on children and armed conflict. The final version is appended as an annex to an annual report submitted to the United Nations Security Council.

The Saudis strongly protested last year when the secretary general at the time, Ban Ki-moon, placed their coalition on the blacklist because of the bombings in Yemen, which have killed hundreds of children and hit targets that included hospitals and schools.

Mr. Ban then promptly removed the coalition from the list and suggested that the Saudis had threatened to withhold United Nations funding if he had refused.

The Saudis, who have donated hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the United Nations, including for the humanitarian crisis caused by the Yemen war, denied exerting pressure on Mr. Ban.

This year, Mr. Ban’s successor, António Guterres, delayed publication of the 2017 report and blacklist for months.

In what appeared to be a concession to Saudi Arabia, the draft blacklist distinguishes, for the first time, parties that have taken steps “aimed at improving the protection of children” from those that have not.

The Saudi coalition is listed in the “improving” category, while the Houthis are listed among those that have made no improvements to protect children.

Whether such a distinction will mollify Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners remains unclear.

According to a draft of the 2017 report — which was leaked a few months ago and is used as the basis to compile the blacklist — the Saudi coalition was responsible for 683 child casualties in Yemen in 2016, while the Houthis and their allies were responsible for 414.

Saudi diplomatic officials at the United Nations did not respond to requests for comment, but the Saudi ambassador, Abdallah Y. al-Mouallimi, has said previously that inclusion on the blacklist is unacceptable.

In recent weeks, Mr. Mouallimi has helped lead an intensive publicity campaign to highlight Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts in Yemen and elsewhere.

Mr. Mouallimi also wrote an Op-Ed article, published Wednesday in the international edition of The New York Times, blaming what he described as stubborn defiance by the Houthis for prolonging the conflict with their “unlawful hold on power.”

Advocacy groups for children, which have strongly protested the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, were appalled last year when Mr. Ban removed the Saudi-led coalition from the blacklist. They welcomed word that the coalition appeared to have been listed again.

“Naming the coalition as responsible in the secretary-general’s annual report is hopefully the first step in holding it accountable and stopping these atrocities,” Eva Smets, executive director of the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, said in a statement.

“The leaked documents also indicate the secretary-general believes the Saudi-led coalition has taken positive measures,” Ms. Smets said, “but we continue to receive disturbing reports of children dying from preventable diseases and the coalition’s bombs.”

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