A leaked United Nations report finds that Saudi Arabia has massacred thousands of children in Yemen since the start of its air campaign in the impoverished country and now the Saudis are using their vast wealth and influence to suppress the document's findings in order to stay off of a UN blacklist identifying nations which violate child rights. On Wednesday Foreign Policy published a bombshell report, based on its possession of a leaked 41-page draft UN document, which found Saudi Arabia and its partner coalition allies in Yemen (among them the United States) of being guilty of horrific war crimes, including the bombing of dozens of schools, hospitals, and civilian infrastructure. Foreign Policy reports:
“The killing and maiming of children remained the most prevalent violation” of children’s rights in Yemen, according to the 41-page draft report obtained by Foreign Policy.
The chief author of the confidential draft report, Virginia Gamba, the U.N. chief’s special representative for children abused in war time, informed top U.N. officials Monday, that she intends to recommend the Saudi-led coalition be added to a list a countries and entities that kill and maim children, according to a well-placed source.
The UN report further identifies that air attacks "were the cause of over half of all child casualties, with at least 349 children killed and 333 children injured” during a designated time period recently studied. While it is unclear what specific window of time the UN assessed for these figures, the AP (also in possession of the leaked document) reports further of the secret U.N. findings that, "the U.N. verified a total of 1,953 youngsters killed and injured in Yemen in 2015 — a six-fold increase compared with 2014" - with the majority of these deaths being the result of Saudi and coalition air power. Also according to the AP:
It said nearly three-quarters of attacks on schools and hospitals — 38 of 52 — were also carried out by the coalition.
Saudi Arabian representative to the UN Human Rights Council Abdulaziz Alwasil with the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. UN Photo/Pierre Albouy. Source: UN Watch.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is reportedly bringing immense pressure to bear against the UN and the commission responsible for the report, with the United States also working behind the scenes to mitigate the public embarrassment and fallout that is sure to come should Saudi Arabia receive formal censure in the U.N.’s upcoming annual report of Children and Armed Conflict. As Foreign Policy describes:
The current standoff has its roots in the 2001 adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1379, which mandated a senior U.N. official to produce a report each year documenting attacks against children in armed conflicts, including an annex that serves as a blacklist of governments, terrorists and armed groups that kill and maim kids.
In recent years Saudi Arabia has managed to use the UN to protect and enhance its image when it comes to questions of human rights and reform. Absurdly, the autocratic country which has Wahhabi Islam for its official state religion is currently serving a 3-year term on the UN Human Rights Council. It is further provides massive funding for UN humanitarian aid programs.
Last year Saudi Arabia was briefly added to the UN blacklist of state and non-state entities involved in the mass killing of children, but according to Foreign Policy:
In response, Saudi Arabia threatened to stage a walk-out by Arab countries from the U.N. and slash hundreds of millions in aid to the international body’s anti-poverty programs unless the coalition was removed from a U.N. rogues list. Then U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reluctantly agreed to temporarily delist the coalition, citing concerns that the loss of Persian Gulf money could imperil the lives of millions of needy children from South Sudan to Yemen.
But he insisted that the coalition would be put back on the list unless a joint U.N.-Saudi review of the coalition’s conduct demonstrated the allegations were unjustified or that attacks on children stopped. But the Saudis were never put back on the list, and the attacks never stopped.
About 600 children were killed and 1,150 injured in Yemen between March 2016 and March 2017, according to UNICEF.
Saudi Arabia and other oil rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have long managed to escape the scrutiny of media and international human rights bodies based on their deep pockets and security relationship with the West. Their collective oil, weapons, and infrastructure investment interdependency with Britain and the US have generally translated into Western governments, media, and human rights organizations towing the party line on the gulf sheikhdoms, content to (with a few sporadic exceptions) uncritically present them as some kind of “reform-minded” terror-fighting benevolent monarchies looking out for democratic interests and championing human rights.
The US itself has been an integral part of the coalition (also including Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Sudan, and with the UK as a huge supplier of weapons) fighting Shia Houthi rebels, which overran the Yemen’s north in 2014. Saudi airstrikes on the impoverished country, which have killed many thousands of civilians and displaced tens of thousands, have involved the assistance of US intelligence and use of American military hardware. Cholera has recently made a comeback amidst the appalling war-time conditions, and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals have been bombed by the Saudis.
The war in Yemen has been drastically under-reported in US media, which tends to focus almost exclusively on human rights in places like Russia or Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is consistently portrayed as little more than a homicidal maniac bent on massacring his own civilian population. Early in the war the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review produced a short study which attempted to explain, according to its title, Why almost no one’s covering the war in Yemen. Other analysts have since criticized the media and political establishment's tendency to exaggerate Iran’s presence in Yemen and further willingness to ignore or downplay the clear war crimes of US client regimes in the gulf: while Iran-aligned states and militias are framed as the region’s terrorizers, the Saudi-aligned coalition’s motives are constantly cast as praise-worthy and noble.
Saudi Arabia and its backers fear what they perceive as growing Iranian influence in the region and seek to defend at all costs Yemeni forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Embattled President Hadi famously gave a September 2016 speech before the UN in which he vowed to “extract Yemen from the claws of Iran” – for which he’s received international support. While Saudi bombs rained down on Yemen’s civilian population, the “international community” accused Iran of hindering peace.
But now the obvious and growing contradictions between what the UN claims to represent, and the human rights abuses of some of its most influential and wealthiest member states, is going increasingly public and impossible to deny. The UN now stands in violation of its own clear black and white resolutions on documenting human rights abuses as what appears to be its quid pro quo relationship with Saudi Arabia and the kingdom's Western backers continues to emerge through undeniable documentation.