The UN Gives up to Saudi Coalition
Yemeni children are being killed in violation of international human rights law stated in international instruments including, the Convention on the Rights of the Child; Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
According to the UN reports, the one year Yemen conflict, (March 2915 – March 2016) has led to killing of 6500 people including 3218 civilians and 785 children. In addition, 1168 children are injured in the war .
The attacks have targeted many schools and hospitals in Yemen. Many of the air strikes have used weapons, warplanes and cluster bombs made by UK and the US, killing and maiming civilians including children. Cluster bombs scatter bomlets across a wide area which do not detonate until disturbed by civilians specially children. Hundreds of the bomlets have been found in Yemen civilian areas . Cluster bombs are banned under the “Convention on Cluster Munitions” adopted by more than 100 countries . The UK and US military support of Saudi coalition make the two countries share the responsibility of the destructive war against Yemen.
On April 20th 2016, presenting a report on Yemen to the Security Council, the UN Secretary General black listed Yemen conflicting parties including the Saudi coalition for violating children’s rights in armed conflict. The report held Saudi coalition responsible for killing of 60% of children, attacking schools and hospitals . But, only a few days later, the Secretary General had to temporarily remove the coalition from the black list under Saudi and its allies’ political manipulations .
The Secretary General experienced a similar situation last year when Israel managed to get removed from the same list, benefiting from the US pressures on UN. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui had recommended Israel to be categorized as a systemic violator of children’s’ rights, but UN chief dropped Israel from the list under “intense pressure” from Tel Aviv and Washington .
Condemning Saudi removal from the blacklist, our organizations believe that UN failure to resist political pressure seriously harms its international image. Fortunately, the incident is seriously protested by international human right organizations and 20 human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam urged Mr. Ban to put the military coalition back on the blacklist as the evidence against it is “overwhelming .” Also, in March, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned air strikes in Yemen .
UN’s regrettable reaction which is referred to as “Blatant pandering ” by NGOs undermines both the UN’s independence and credibility of its reports and the international laws. It can create a culture of impunity for crimes committed in armed conflicts, setting a dangerous precedent that will put the lives of children at even greater risk.
We urge the UN to put the coalition back into the list, so that the credibility of the UN is not jeopardized. As it was witnessed in the case of UNESCO, the United States announced to have stopped UNESCO funding, following its vote to grant the Palestinians full membership in 2011 . However, UNESCO was quite determined not to change position under the financial threat which increased the organization’s international credibility attracting other international funds. What is most, last year John Kerry announced that he was determined to restore U.S. funding to UNESCO. US attempts to cooperate with UNESCO, despite the previous financial threats, will definitely increase the organization’s credibility.
Therefore, we urge all NGOs and UN experts working in the field of children’s rights and interested in restoring the UN’s international image to announce their position and follow up the issue.
We also advocate international mechanisms to prevent States’ political and financial power from threating UN goals and ideals. We call on the United Nations to develop effective mechanisms to deal with member States’ financial threats, using techniques such as depriving the States from some international rights and voting rights within the UN or banning the member States form such blackmails.
The fact that Saudi’s financial threat to the UN is internationally disclosed will surely harm the Saudi’s international image more than that of the UN in the long run, negatively influencing the county and the coalition’s international interests. However, we strongly believe that it is the time for the UN to develop new financial resources in addition to the member States funding so as to protect itself against any similar threats.