The draft of a new and potentially incendiary United Nations report calls out the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition for killing and maiming hundreds of Yemeni children in their ongoing campaign against Houthi rebels.
Due to be released Friday, the annual assessment carried out by the U.N. office of Children and Armed Conflict has sparked controversy in the past as Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen have sought to downplay the collateral impacts of their years-long bombing campaign in the country.
The coalition launched its air war in Yemen in March 2015 after rebels ousted the government led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Thousands have since been killed in the fighting — the vast majority of them civilians.
The 2017 document is broken down into four categories — including one for “listed parties that have put in place measures during the reporting period to improve the protection of children,” which includes Saudi Arabia.
Last summer, Saudi officials threatened to break relations with the U.N. and cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to its humanitarian relief and counterterrorism programs if they were included on an earlier version of the blacklist.
In response, then-Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement saying he would remove the Saudi-led coalition from the list, pending a review of the issue by a joint panel. The move sparked a backlash from those who accused the U.N. of caving to Saudi intimidation.
Human rights groups are making similar allegations about the soon-to-be released document.
“If the media reports are confirmed, the secretary-general will be giving the coalition far too much credit for empty promises that have failed to protect children on the ground,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
According to a draft of the current document, obtained by Foreign Policy, “The coalition’s actions objectively led to the listing for the killing and maiming of children, with 683 child casualties attributed to this party, and, as a result of being responsible for 38 verified incidents, for attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016.”