Iran said on Wednesday the UN is giving a “free pass” to the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen by removing it from a list of groups violating children’s rights.
A recent report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the coalition would be delisted “for the violation of killing and maiming, following a sustained significant decrease in killing and maiming due to air strikes“.
It said the death toll had fallen since an agreement signed in March 2019.
The UN report was issued as Houthi rebels reported that an air attack by the Saudi-led coalition had struck a vehicle carrying civilians in northern Yemen on Monday, killing 13 people, including four children.
“UN secretariat gives a free pass to Saudi-led coalition in #Yemen, despite admitting 100s of Yemeni children were killed,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia and its ally the United States are making a mockery of international bodies, Mousavi added, using the hashtag “ListOfShame” and attaching pictures of dead Yemeni children.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was deposed by the Houthi rebels in late 2014.
It has been widely blamed for civilian casualties in bombing raids that campaigners say have pushed the country deeper into crisis.
The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict has said the Saudi-Emirati-led coalition was responsible for the death or injury of 222 children in Yemen last year.
In 2016, the coalition was briefly included on the annual list before a threat by Saudi Arabia to cut off funding to UN programmes forced a reversal.
The secretary-general’s envoy for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, said the UN had come “under no pressure” from Saudi Arabia, and the removal from the list was based on data.
In 2017, after Guterres assumed the UN leadership, the coalition was placed in a sub-section of the report created for those making efforts to avoid deaths of children. It remained there in 2018 and 2019.
New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced Guterres for dropping the coalition from the “list of shame,” saying he was “ignoring the UN’s own evidence of continued grave violations against children”.
UK charity Save the Children called it a “shocking decision” by Guterres.
The Houthis remain on the UN “list of shame” for failing to put in place measures to improve the protection of children, though Guterres said in the report he is encouraged by ongoing UN talks with the rebel group “to end and prevent violations for which they are listed”.
The report, which reviews several conflicts worldwide each year, said 4,019 children were verified as having been killed and more than 6,000 maimed in 2019.