By Mohammad Mazhari

Guterres tries to protect certain governments from accountability: Human rights activist

June 22, 2020 - 9:50

TEHRAN – Children's Rights Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch is of the opinion that UN Secretary General António Guterres makes efforts to protect powerful countries and their allies from being held accountable for their performance, citing the United States and its close allies Israel and Saudi Arabia as examples.

“It appears that he is trying to protect powerful governments from accountability,” Jo Becker tells the Tehran Times. 

Human Rights Watch has criticized Guterres, saying he ignores the UN's own evidence and taking Saudi-led coalition off his "list of shame" for violations against children in Yemen. The HRW says this has happened despite the fact that at least 222 children were killed or maimed by the Saudi-led attack on Yemen in 2019.

Becker says the UN "list of shame," which came shortly after the Guterres report on children and armed conflict in 2019, omits the Saudi-led coalition which have been pounding Yemen relentlessly since March 2015
This is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you evaluate the UN's “list of shame'? Why do you think it was shameful?

A: The secretary general’s report and “list of shame” is full of discrepancies that damage its credibility. For example, he has removed the Saudi-led coalition from his list for killing and maiming children in Yemen, even though his reports say the coalition was responsible for 222 child casualties last year.

He also de-listed Myanmar’s army for recruiting and using child soldiers, even though his report says they recruited and used over 200 children last year.

These are shameful decisions that ignore the UN’s own evidence of violations against children.

He also did not list Russian forces in Syria, U.S. forces in Afghanistan, or Israeli forces in Palestine, even though his report documented hundreds of child casualties by these forces.

It appears that he is trying to protect powerful governments from accountability.

Q: Do you believe that the U.S. and Saudi funding for United Nation's programs affect the international body’s decisions?

A: The previous Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, had said publicly that Saudi Arabia put undue pressure on him to remove them from his list. However, the special representative of the secretary-general on children and the armed conflict meant that the current secretary-general was not under such pressure this year.

Q: How many kids have been killed during the Saudi-led war in Yemen? And why are Western countries silent about the number of child casualties in Yemen?

A: As mentioned, the report states that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 222 child casualties last year. That includes both children who were killed and those that were injured.

I believe that some Western governments have spoken out about child casualties in Yemen, but don’t have any examples handy.

Q: Do you think that the UN is able to pass mandatory resolutions to protect children? Or does it need some structural changes?

A: The Security Council’s resolutions are supposed to be mandatory, but we also see that it is subject to political factors. Powerful countries try to shield themselves and their allies.
We are urging the secretary-general to adopt a better process to develop his list, to ensure it is accurate and based on evidence.

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