The Saudi military coalition – which receives logistical support, weapons and political backing from the US and UK – has been accused of killing hundreds of children in Yemen, according to a confidential UN report.
The report, which has yet to be made public and could still be changed, says that 51% of all child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year were the result of the Saudi-led military operation. It says the deaths were “unacceptably high”. Saudi Arabia has insisted it is operating within international law, The Independent reports.
“Attacks carried out by air caused over half of all child casualties, with at least 349 killed and 333 injured,” said the report.
“The UN was informed of measures taken by the coalition in 2016 to reduce the impact of conflict on children. However, despite these measures, grave violations against children continued at unacceptably high levels in 2016.”
Saudi Arabia has always insisted that its operations follow international guidelines. Its UN mission said in a statement there was “no justification whatsoever” for including the coalition’s name on the blacklist.
“We trust that the United Nations will make the appropriate decision on this matter, and the positive exchange of information” on the coalition’s activities, the statement said. It declined to comment on the findings in the draft report for 2016.
Saudi Arabia is leading a nine-nation coalition in a bombing campaign that started in March 2015 to defeat Iran-allied Houthi insurgents. The US and UK have offered logistical and political support.
Support from US, UK
Britain has also continued to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia despite mounting worries over civilian deaths, believed to total around 3,000. Last month, a British court ruled that such sales could continue despite humanitarian concerns and rejected an appeal by the Campaign Against Arms Trade to stop them.
The role of the UK and US in supporting Riyadh has come under mounting scrutiny as concern about civilian deaths has grown.
Reports suggest it will be up to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to decide whether the report, which blamed the Saudi coalition for more than 680 child casualties and three-quarters of the attacks on schools and hospitals, is made public.
The Saudi-led coalition had been named on the blacklist last year after the UN report blamed it for 60% of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015 and half the attacks on schools and hospitals.