[The report said Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan — had been responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015.]
By Rick Gladstone
Houthi supporters during a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa,
Yemen in July. The Saudi-led coalition had been included in a U.N.
list in June of armies that kill and maim children.
Credit Khaled Abdullah/Reuters
Saudi Arabia’s fury over its inclusion in a United Nations report on armies that kill and maim children resurfaced on Tuesday in a Security Council meeting, two months after the Saudis pressed Secretary General Ban Ki-moon into temporarily removing the designation.
At a council meeting on children and armed conflict, Mr. Ban said a review of Saudi Arabia’s original inclusion in the annual report was still incomplete. He also said that the Saudis had furnished new information “to prevent and end grave violations against children.”
Mr. Ban did not specify the nature of the information or its source. Also left unclear was whether Saudi Arabia’s removal from the list would remain temporary.
The Saudi outrage at Mr. Ban exploded in June when the report was first disclosed; it showed that a Saudi-led military coalition fighting insurgents in Yemen had been included in the report’s annex of armies that kill children.
Within days, Mr. Ban announced that he had been coerced by the Saudis into temporarily removing the coalition from the annex, which is regarded as an annual blacklist of shame.
Mr. Ban said at the time that Saudi Arabia, among the most generous donors to United Nations relief causes, had threatened to withhold financing if he refused. He described the decision as one of the most difficult of his nearly decade-long tenure, which ends this year.
Saudi officials contested Mr. Ban’s version of events, insisting that they had issued no threats. Still, the episode offered a telling glimpse into the limits of a secretary general’s power at the 193-member United Nations and the influence of its wealthiest contributors.
Human rights groups have criticized Mr. Ban’s decision, describing at as a capitulation that eroded the moral authority of the United Nations.
Mr. Ban reiterated to the Security Council on Tuesday that he stood by the information in the annual report, which chronicled violations of children’s rights in war zones around the world.
The report said Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan — had been responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015.
“We will continue our engagement to ensure that concrete measures to protect children are implemented,” Mr. Ban said. In an apparent reference to the stigma of inclusion in the report’s annex, he also said: “Today I renew my appeal to every member state and every party to conflict: If you want to protect your image, protect children.”
The Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, who was among those invited to address the Security Council on Tuesday, said his country and its partners were “committed to abiding by international law” in the Yemen conflict, and that their original inclusion in the annex was done “without any valid reasons.”
He also said the allies had undertaken a “periodic comprehensive review to avoid adverse effects on the civilian population,” and that the Saudis had allocated more than $3 billion to help in aiding and rebuilding Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East.
The United Nations report has created diplomatic awkwardness for the United States, a Saudi ally and military supplier, which has frequently called upon the Saudis to exercise restraint in Yemen to avoid civilian casualties.
Speaking to the council on Tuesday, Samantha Power, the American ambassador, emphasized what she called the need for all member states to cooperate with the secretary general’s investigations of atrocities against children in war.
Ms. Power described Mr. Ban’s report as a “bleak, yet unsurprising, picture of the human rights violations committed against children in conflicts, many of which are actually worsening.”
She added: “Even if we governments do not ultimately agree with certain U.N. findings or conclusions, we must maintain support for the United Nations, such a vital organization that is aiming, as we’ve heard today, to help children everywhere.”