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Saudi-led coalition to stay off UN child-death blacklist

The UN blames the Saudi-led coalition for 60 percent of child deaths in Yemen [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 August, 2016

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The UN chief Ban Ki-moon has hinted that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen will remain off the blacklist of child's rights violators in a dramatic turnaround.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has hinted that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen will not be returned to a UN blacklist for violating child rights.

This comes despite his "very strong concerns" about the protection of children in the war-torn country.

The announcent on Tuesday comes after a move by the UN in June that temporarily removed the coalition from the blacklist of child deaths in Yemen's war, pending a joint review of cases.

This came after Saudi Arabia threatened to stop funding several UN programmes.

The UN chief told the Security Council on Tuesday he stands by the report that led to the blacklisting, accusing the coalition of killing and injuring about 1,200 children in 2015.

The secretary-general said he has held talks with Saudi Arabia at the highest level, including with the deputy crown prince and foreign minister, and has received information about measures taken by the coalition "to prevent and end grave violations against children."

"The forward-looking review continues - and the situation on the ground will be closely monitored," Ban said. "We will continue our engagement to ensure that concrete measures to protect children are implemented."

The UN envoy for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, also indicated that the Arab coalition will not be reinstated on the blacklist, telling reporters: "What happened in the past for me is behind."

On Monday, a UN diplomatic source had said that the coalition has not provided enough evidence to warrant removal from the blacklist.  

Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi said he is certain his country is off the list for good.

Mouallimi said some of the information in the UN report lacked accuracy. He said Saudi Arabia would inform the UN as soon as possible about the results of 10 investigations into alleged attacks.

He also reiterated an invitation to the UN to send experts to Riyadh to discuss the report.

"We will do everything possible from our side to minimise casualties on our part," he said.

Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch called for the coalition to be returned "to the secretary-general's list of shame until it stops its indiscriminate bombardment of Yemen's civilians."

Amnesty International, the Child Rights International Network, Oxfam and Physicians for Human Rights were among 20 groups that appealed to the UN chief in June to reinstate the Saudi-led coalition to the blacklist.

Ki-Moon's annual report on children in conflict said the UN verified a total of 1,953 youngsters killed and injured in Yemen in 2015 - a six-fold increase compared with 2014 - and it attributed about 60 percent of those casualties to the coalition.

The UN also verified 101 attacks on schools and hospitals, attributing 48 percent to the coalition.

Since the start of the war in Yemen in March 2015, some 6,400 people have been killed, exacerbating the pre-war humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country, according to the United Nations.

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