Middle East

Yemen war: UN 'to list Saudi coalition for killing children'

A man carries a girl rescued from the site of a suspected Saudi-led air strike that killed eight members of her family in Sanaa, Yemen (25 August 2017) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption More than 8,500 people, 60% of them civilians, have been killed in the past two and a half years

A Saudi-led multinational coalition fighting in Yemen has been included on a draft United Nations list of parties that kill and maim children in war.

The text says the coalition's actions resulted in 683 child casualties during 2016, and accuses it of carrying out 38 attacks on schools and hospitals.

Yemeni government forces, which the coalition is supporting, and the rebel Houthi movement are also on the list.

The coalition has denied intentionally targeting civilians or infrastructure.

More than 8,530 people, 60% of them civilians, have been killed and 48,800 injured in air strikes and fighting on the ground since March 2015, according to the UN.

The conflict has also left 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, created the world's largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is believed to have affected 775,000 people and caused 2,130 deaths.

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Every year, the UN secretary general issues a report on children and armed conflict that contains an annex of "listed parties" accused of a range of violations.

"In Yemen, the coalition's actions objectively led to the listing for the killing and maiming of children, with 683 child casualties attributed to this party, and, as a result of being responsible for 38 verified incidents, for attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016," a draft of the latest report says.

Yemeni pro-government forces, Houthi rebels and the jihadist group al-Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula (AQAP) are listed for a second consecutive year.

The draft also makes clear that the UN believes the coalition has "put in place measures during the reporting period to improve the protection of children".

Saudi Arabia's permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, told Reuters news agency that he would not comment until the report was officially approved by Secretary General António Guterres later this month.

But in August, the Saudi mission said there was "no justification whatsoever" for including the coalition in the annex of "listed parties".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The United Arab Emirates has sent troops to Yemen as part of the coalition intervention

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric also declined to comment on the draft.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of the charity Save the Children International, said: "The secretary general has stood up for Yemen's children and for the rights of all children living under war and conflict. Being added to this shameful list should act as a wake-up call to every party in Yemen's conflict - and countries that are supporting or arming them."

"The world must step up and live up to our responsibility to protect children from the horrors of armed conflict," the former Danish prime minister added.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The rebel Houthi movement is named among the "listed parties" for a second consecutive year

Save the Children said it had seen few signs of improvement on the ground in Yemen, with 58 civilian casualties recorded in one week in August alone. Forty-two were the result of coalition attacks, according to UN human rights officials.

Last year, the coalition was removed from the 2015 list despite what Save the Children said was "clear, UN-verified evidence of a pattern of grave violations".

Former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ordered a "joint review", reportedly after Saudi Arabia threatened to withdraw funding for UN programmes.

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