United Nations, October 7 (Reuters/newsin.asia): Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected a United Nations report blaming a Saudi-led military coalition for killing or injuring 683 children in Yemen and attacking dozens of schools and hospitals.
“The report is inaccurate and misleading. We exercise the maximum degree of care and precaution to avoid civilian harm,” said the Saudi Ambassador to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, at the United Nations.
In a report submitted to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres blacklisted the Saudi-led coalition for its 2016 actions – even as he said it had taken action to improve child protection.
Among those “named and shamed” for violations against children in 2016 are: the Yemeni government forces, pro-government militia, the Houthi rebel group, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Reacting to the report Saudi envoy Mouallimi said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the coalition reaffirm that it is taking important measures to protect civilians during all military operations to end the suffering of the Yemeni people and minimize the humanitarian cost.”
“We reject the inaccurate and misleading information and figures contained in the report and we express our strong reservation with respect to this information,” he added.
Mouallimi blamed the Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh for putting civilians at risk, including using children as human shields.
The UN report does not subject those listed to U.N. action, but rather “shames” parties to conflicts in the hope of pushing them to implement measures to protect children.
Reasons for Saudis’ Rejection
A reliable source in the Maldivian government, which supports the Saudis’ case, said that the sourcing of information by the UN is faulty.
“The UN tends to give credence to rebel sources but not government sources. Our experience is that the UN at times fails to incorporate accurate information as they rely heavily on unreliable external and biased sources rather than impartial and balanced views,” the source said.
“While the UN derives its authority from member states, it fails to accurately project governmental views in reporting,” the source added.
In the Yemen case for example, the figures of deaths are from hospitals in areas under the iron grip of the Houthi and Saleh militias “who deliberately mislead international public opinion. The rebels counterfeit hospital records and provide the UN unfounded statistics.”
“There is a severe under-representation of international monitoring organizations in the liberated regions leaving an information vacuum that is filled by speculation and false accounts.”
“International organizations in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa are routinely threatened by the Houthi and Salah rebels,” the Maldivian source claimed..
“The legitimate government of Yemen has hard evidence (through the National Yemeni Investigation Committee) that the Houthi militia is counterfeiting death certificates.”
“And the Houthi forces routinely recruit and use child soldiers ,use them as human shields, and assemble them near strategic targets to maximize public outcry over child and civilian deaths in airstrikes on legitimate high priority military targets.”
“The report deliberately ignores the coalition’s efforts to provide relief to the vulnerable sections and rehabilitate child soldiers,” the source said.
“Saudi Arabia has repeatedly invited international organizations to observe its humanitarian efforts and its air strike methodologies. The Saudi-led coalition relies heavily on the expertise of multiple Western partners in selecting targets and delivering ordnance,” it pointed out.
Yemen has been devastated by more than two years of civil war in which President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi’s government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, is fighting to drive the Houthis out of cities they seized in 2014 and 2015.
More than 10,000 people have been killed and the conflict has ruined the economy and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
The Saudis are supported by the US, UK and France, and the Houthis are supported by Russia and China.
What is happening is essentially a part of the larger conflict between the entrenched Western powers on the one hand, and the emerging powers, namely, China and Russia.
Report Is Grist to Maldivian Opposition’s Mill
Seizing an opportunity to attack Abdulla Yameen’s government, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on Saturday called upon President Yameen to immediately withdraw support to the Saudi-led military coalition.
MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said: “In joining this murderous coalition, President Yameen has made the Maldives complicit in the destruction of Yemen and the slaughter of its people.”
“The Maldives must immediately leave this disgraceful coalition, which is responsible for the indiscriminate killing and maiming of fellow Muslims.”
“ President Yameen, who has deliberately tied Maldivian foreign Policy to Riyadh, had joined the Saudi-led military coalition unilaterally, without consulting parliament or the Maldivian public,” Ghafoor charged.
(The featured image at the top shows a Houthi held town in a shambles after a bombing raid)