Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (Watchlist) and Save the Children collected more than 37,000 signatures on a petition calling on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to list all responsible parties for committing grave violations against children in Yemen, including the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, in his 2017 annual report on children and armed conflict. The petition was delivered on August 14, 2017, during the UN’s process of finalizing the report, which is expected for publication in late August.
The call for listing is based on an abundance of evidence documenting a verified pattern of grave violations committed by the coalition during the course of its 2016 military operations in Yemen. In July, Watchlist and Save the Children issued a joint publication listing a number of incidents in which the coalition conducted airstrikes in civilian areas, resulting in the deaths and injuries of more than 120 children and damage and destruction to schools and hospitals. Entitled “No Justice for Yemen’s Children? The Case for Listing the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition for Grave Violations,” the briefing note outlines the importance of the Secretary-General’s listing tool which functions as an accountability mechanism. Inclusion in the annexes of the report allows for the UN to negotiate with parties to conflict towards time-bound action plans to end and prevent violations, as well as impose sanctions against parties that violate the rights of children.
Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon included the coalition in his 2016 report based on incidents occurring in 2015 but removed it several days after publication, pending review, following pressure by Saudi Arabia, including threats to pull funding from UN agencies. After its removal, the coalition was said to have made verbal commitments to the UN to take more precautions to limit civilian casualties and strikes on civilian objects but the situation on the ground has not changed.
In addition to carrying out attacks on schools and hospitals, the coalition has limited the delivery of humanitarian aid, including food, medicine, and fuel, leading to a situation in which more than 1.8 million children under 5 are acutely malnourished. Furthermore, a cholera epidemic has affected more than 500,000 people, with children making up almost half of all cases. More than 1,900 have died, a quarter of them children.
Foreign Policy reported on August 16 that Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, intends to recommend to the Secretary-General that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition be added to this year’s “list of shame”. The news outlet had obtained a confidential copy of the report indicating that the coalition was responsible for 683 verified child casualties and 38 attacks on schools and hospitals.
Children are bearing the brunt of the two-year war in Yemen and the new UN Secretary-General has an opportunity to signal to all parties to conflict that the international community will not tolerate grave violations against children. Watchlist, along with its partners, urge Secretary-General Guterres to issue an accurate and credible list of all parties to conflict responsible for grave violations against children, in Yemen and elsewhere.
Read more about Watchlist’s advocacy around the Secretary-General’s 2017 annual report on children and armed conflict, as well as its research and advocacy on attacks on health care in Yemen.