United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon removed Saudi Arabia from a U.N.-blacklist of violators of children’s human rights, after initially placing their Yemen coalition on the list last Thursday. The decision resulted in a massive outcry from rights groups who lambasted Ki-moon’s “flip-flopping.”
Saudi Arabia criticized the U.N. for a recent report that said the coalition it is leading in Yemen was resulting in over 60 percent of child deaths there. “Last week’s U.N. report said the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015, killing 510 and wounding 667,” Reuters reported. “It also said the coalition carried out half the attacks on schools and hospitals.
Ban Ki-moon succumbs to pressure to remove Saudi Arabia from list of shame of wartime countries harming children. pic.twitter.com/xsRXZXOWWP
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) June 7, 2016
The decision to remove Saudi Arabia from the blacklist has been met with criticism from many human rights organizations.
“Political power and diplomatic clout have been allowed to trump the UN’s duty to expose those responsible for the killing and maiming of more than 1,000 of Yemen’s children,” Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, told the Guardian. “The killing of children in their homes, at schools and in hospitals should not be swept under the carpet. When the UN identifies crimes such as these it needs to act, regardless of who the perpetrators are.”
“It is unprecedented for the UN to bow to pressure to alter its own published report on children in armed conflict. It is unconscionable that this pressure was brought to bear by one of the very states listed in the report,” Richard Bennett, Representative and Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office, said.
The Saudi-led coalition first began airstrikes on Yemen in March 2015. The campaign was directed primarily against the insurgent Houthis, who marched on Sana’a and drove out the government of Yemeni leader Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The conflict has led to a humanitarian crisis in the country that has severely deteriorated in the last year and change.
While the U.N. has changed course, Saudi Arabia’s aggression has bit back at them and placed them on the receiving end of increasing international pressure elsewhere.
In March of this year, the Netherlands’ parliament became the first European country to vote to halt selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. Despite the friendly relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States, the Senate has also recently upped pressure on Saudi after it was revealed that they were using American cluster bombs to kill and maim civilians in Yemen.
There’s currently a bi-partisan effort in the Senate, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), that would set conditions for selling Saudi Arabia air-to-ground weapons. U.S. criticism of Saudi Arabia could also intensify upon the release of the 28 pages, a classified section of the 2003 investigation into the 9/11 attacks.