Yemen, Palestine slam UN Chief for excluding Saudis, Israel from children’s blacklist

June 21, 2021 - 17:21

Yemen has strongly denounced the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, for removing Saudi Arabia for the second year in a row from a blacklist of countries and groups responsible for harming children during conflicts.

Foreign Minister of Yemen’s National Salvation government, Hisham Sharaf, noted that the UN is condemning the victim and condoning the executioner. In a statement he said: "Although the United Nations must defend human rights, including children, as stated in its charter, it turns a blind eye to the [Saudi] targeting of residential centers, killing and wounding over 8000 children and targeting schools and hospitals by the countries of the US-Saudi aggression”.

He pointed out that Guterres did not take into account the reports made by dozens of regional and international human rights organizations, ignoring all video evidence and documented data of Saudi Arabia targeting residential areas. He added this will give the green light for Riyadh to continue committing grave violations against the children of Yemen, and make UN officials accomplices in those crimes.

Yemeni officials also expressed regret that the Secretary-General succumbed, for the second year, to pressure from Saudi Arabia to cut funding to the world body if the Kingdom is put back on the blacklist. Yemenis say that former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, at least had the courage to admit to those pressures from Riyadh during his tenure.

In a surprise move, the UN Chief added Yemen’s popular Ansarullah movement to the list for allegedly using child soldiers. In a statement, Ansarullah's political council said that “Guterres has provided tangible proof that the UN organization is just a platform that powerful countries exploit“.

The statement added that “It would have been better for the UN to remain neutral and not to turn into a cheap trumpet repeating the nonsense and absurdities of the [Saudi] coalition of aggression”. Ansarullah denounced the unfair classification, denouncing it as invalid and not based on any argument, noting that the UN has declared itself a party to the aggression.

Yemen’s National Salvation Government pointed out Yemen respects its obligations under international law and protects the rights of Yemeni children, noting that the country does not need to militarize children as long as it has men who can repel and defeat aggression. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry says the Israeli absence from the blacklist shows the bias of the UN and indicates a call to ensure the regime escapes from punishment.

The ministry added that this also exposes the UN’s lack of credibility and integrity. The ministry stressed the need for accountability and fairness to the victims of Israel’s bombardment and to preserve the memory of the recent Palestinian children that were martyred by Israeli warplanes. Over the years, the blacklist of those who violate children’s rights has been controversial.

In 2016, diplomatic sources said that Saudi Arabia’s allies pressured then UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon to remove Saudi Arabia from the list. The removal prompted angry reactions from rights groups after one diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the media that the pressure to remove Saudi Arabia amounted to “real blackmail”. Riyadh had threatened to cut all funding to UN programs if it was not removed from the child rights blacklist for killing children in Yemen.

According to analysts, a similar lobbying campaign has been waged by Israel and its allies.

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