The United Nations have succumbed to pressure from Saudi Arabia by removing the country from a UN blacklist for violating children’s rights.
The UN had put the Saudi regime on the list just one week ago, saying the coalition it is leading in Yemen was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in 2015, killing 510 and wounding 667.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to reverse the decision has resulted in condemnation from various rights groups who say the UN are guilty of shameful flip-flopping.
The decision to remove Saudi Arabia from the blacklist has been met with criticism from many human rights organizations.
“Political power and diplomatic clout have been allowed to trump the UN’s duty to expose those responsible for the killing and maiming of more than 1,000 of Yemen’s children,” Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, told the Guardian. “The killing of children in their homes, at schools and in hospitals should not be swept under the carpet. When the UN identifies crimes such as these it needs to act, regardless of who the perpetrators are.”
“It is unprecedented for the UN to bow to pressure to alter its own published report on children in armed conflict. It is unconscionable that this pressure was brought to bear by one of the very states listed in the report,” Richard Bennett, Representative and Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office, said.
The Saudi-led coalition first began airstrikes on Yemen in March 2015. The campaign was directed primarily against the insurgent Houthis, who marched on Sana’a and drove out the government of Yemeni leader Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The conflict has led to a humanitarian crisis in the country that has severely deteriorated in the last year and change.
“Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years,” Peter Maurer of the ICRC told AP. Of 26 million Yemenis, at least 21.2 million are in need of humanitarian aid.
While the U.N. has changed course, Saudi Arabia’s aggression has bit back at them and placed them on the receiving end of increasing international pressure elsewhere.
In March of this year, the Netherlands’ parliament became the first European country to vote to halt selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. Despite the friendly relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States, the Senate has also recently upped pressure on Saudi after it was revealed that they were using American cluster bombs to kill and maim civilians in Yemen.
There’s currently a bi-partisan effort in the Senate, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), that would set conditions for selling Saudi Arabia air-to-ground weapons. U.S. criticism of Saudi Arabia could also intensify upon the release of the 28 pages, a classified section of the 2003 investigation into the 9/11 attacks.