United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon slammed the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen for killing and maiming children by adding it to an annual blacklist of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights during conflict.
The coalition was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries last year, killing 510 and wounding 667, according to Ban’s report released on Thursday, which also said the coalition carried out half the attacks on schools and hospitals.
The Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.
“Grave violations against children increased dramatically as a result of the escalating conflict,” Ban said in the report.
“In Yemen, owing to the very large number of violations attributed to the two parties, the Houthis/Ansar Allah and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are listed for killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals,” he said.
The Houthis, Yemen government forces and pro-government militia have been on the U.N. blacklist for at least five years and are considered “persistent perpetrators.” Also appearing again on the list is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Saudi Arabia mission to the United Nations was not immediately available to comment on the report.
The U.N. report blacklists groups that “engage in the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children, the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals and attacks or threats of attacks against protected personnel, and the abduction of children.”
The report cited a deadly U.S. air strike on a hospital run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in Kunduz, Afghanistan, although it said the attack was carried out by “international forces” and did not blacklist the United States.
Along with warring parties in Yemen, the United Nations named armed groups in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Colombia, Nigeria and the Philippines.
Government forces in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria were named on the blacklist.
Ban urged the 193 U.N. member states to ensure engagement in hostilities and responses to threats to peace and security comply with international law.
“It is unacceptable that the failure to do so has resulted in numerous violations of children’s rights,” Ban said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Dan Grebler)