Saudi Arabia and its allies must face responsibility for the killing and maiming of children in Yemen [EN/AR]

Six aid agencies call on the UN to hold the Saudi-led Coalition to account

August 1st 2016 - Six aid agencies today expressed their disappointment that the Saudi-led Coalition has not been put back on the UN’s list of parties responsible for grave violations against children in Yemen. The agencies – Action Contre La Faim, CARE, Intersos, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam and Save the Children – called for tangible progress in protecting children caught up in the conflict in Yemen to have been demonstrated when the UN Security Council meets for its annual debate on Children and Armed Conflict on 2 August.

According to UN verified data nearly 2,000 children were killed or injured in Yemen during 2015, with the UN attributing 60 per cent of these casualties to Coalition air strikes. The UN also documented attacks on more than 100 schools and hospitals – nearly half of which it attributes to the Coalition.

Along with other parties to the conflict in Yemen, the Saudi-led Coalition was originally listed in the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict following UN-verified evidence of killing and maiming of children by Coalition forces and attacks on schools and hospitals.

However following pressure from the Saudi-led Coalition, it was quickly removed from the Annual Report, “pending review”.

Edward Santiago, Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen said, “Yemen’s children have faced unimaginable horrors in the past 15 months. All parties to the conflict in Yemen are responsible for committing grave violations against children, but by the UN’s own evidence, the Coalition’s military operations are responsible for a significant amount of this suffering.”

Since it was first introduced in 2002, the listing of perpetrators in the UN Secretary General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict has proved an important tool in putting pressure on parties to armed conflict to comply with international law. Over 20 governments and armed groups have signed UN action plans, many of which have taken steps to end violations against children in order to be considered for “de-listing”.

Wael Ibrahim, CARE International‘s Country Director in Yemen said, “A dangerous precedent has been set by the removal of the Saudi-led Coalition from the UN list. It shows that the Coalition is able to use their influence to avoid scrutiny and accountability for grave violations against children.”

The agencies call on the Saudi-led Coalition and other parties to the conflict in Yemen to take concrete steps to end grave violations against children. They also urge UN member States to request the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Yemen. The Commission of Inquiry’s remit should include establishing the facts and circumstances of such violations while making recommendations, including appropriate accountability processes.

Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen said, “All parties to the conflict in Yemen must engage with the UN to agree on concrete measures to prevent and end grave violations against children, including the Saudi-led Coalition”.

Notes to Editors

•The Saudi-led Coalition was added to the annexes to the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict for the first time in June 2016, but removed shortly afterwards “pending review”. Other parties to armed conflict in Yemen that are listed in the annual report are: Al-Houthi, Al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula, Government forces, and pro-Government militias, including the Salafists and Popular Committees.

•The annexes were established in 2001 by UN Security Council Resolution, with listing triggered when there is UN verified evidence of a pattern of recruitment and use of child soldiers; killing and maiming of children; rape or other grave sexual violence against children; attacks on schools and hospitals; and abductions by an armed party to a conflict.

•In 2015, the UN documented 1,953 child casualties (785 killed and 1,168 injured) in Yemen of which 60 per cent (510 deaths and 667 injuries) were attributed to the Saudi-led Coalition and 20 per cent to Al-Houthis. It also verified 101 attacks on schools and hospitals during 2015, attributing 48 per cent to the Saudi-led Coalition, 29 per cent to Al-Houthis and 20 per cent to unknown perpetrators; as well as 762 cases of military recruitment and use of children, 11 cases of abduction, and denial of humanitarian aid, the majority of which were attributed to Al-Houthis.

•The Government of Yemen is among those that have agreed an action plan setting out measures to prevent and end the recruitment and use of children, but progress towards implementation of the 2014 plan halted with the escalation of the armed conflict in early 2015. The Al-Houthis, although listed since 2011 for recruitment and use of children and therefore regarded as “persistent perpetrators” have yet to agree an action plan. They are additionally listed in the 2016 Secretary-General’s report for killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals in the latest conflict, while other are also listed for child recruitment and use.