06/08/2016, 10.21
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UN changes its mind: Riyadh is not violating children’s rights in Yemen. Wrath of activists

Human rights NGOs "dismayed" by the decision to remove the Saudi coalition from the blacklist. UN spokesman claims it is not a definitive choice, but activists speak of a decision fruit of Riyadh’s political pressure. And accuse the leaders of the United Nations of having lost all credibility.


New York (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Activists and human rights NGOs have expressed "dismay" at the United Nations decision to remove the Saudi led Arab coalition, fighting in Yemen against Houthi rebels, from the black list of countries that violate children's rights.

UN leaders, explains spokesman Stephane Dujarric, defend the choice made and indicate that it is not a final decision; the review and the final judgment will be pronounced by the end of August.

"This is not a radical change of policy - explains Dujarric - because the final list will be drawn up based on all final assessments".

Activists and international NGOs - Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International - have strongly criticized the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who only a few days ago had spoken critically of Riyadh.

The head of the UN had accused the Saudis and Arab allies of killing hundreds of children in Yemen, setting the stage for the coalition’s inclusion among the black list of countries that violate children's rights. A few days later, this sudden reverse has caused outcry and fierce criticism.

Activists believe that Ban Ki-moon has been forced to yield to pressure from the Saudi government, thus damaging the image and credibility of the United Nations.

Following the publication of the UN report, in which the Saudis were accused of being responsible for 60% of the 785 children who have died in Yemen, Riyadh intervened "asking" that the report be "corrected."

Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, claimed it was an "extremely exaggerated" number and that it had to be changed. He then added that the decision to remove Saudi Arabia from the blacklist had to be "irreversible."

Human rights organizations are puzzled pointing to the fact that the report was prepared by the United Nations detailing the attacks on schools and hospitals by the Saudi led coalition air force in Yemen.

Their removal from the black list is the result of political manipulation for HRW deputy director Philippe Bolopion, and now the UN has "lost its credibility." For Amnesty International, the choice is a "disgraceful pandering" to Saudi Arabia and its allies, and casts a shadow on all UN work in the field of human rights.

In a statement the US State Department claims it "respects" the decision, which it insists is not the result of pressure exerted in recent days by the US government.

Since January 2015, Yemen has been the scene of a bloody civil war pitting the country’s Sunni leadership, backed by Saudi Arabia, against Shia Houthi rebels, close to Iran.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against the rebels in an attempt to free the capital For Saudi Arabia, the Houthis, who are allied to forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, are militarily supported by Iran, a charge the latter angrily rejects.

Groups linked to al Qaeda and jihadist militias linked to the Islamic State group are active in the country, which adds to the spiral of violence and terror.

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