UN won't give sources of child casualties in Yemen to Saudis

AP News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2016 9:31 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations said Wednesday it will not give the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen the sources of information that led the coalition to be put on a U.N. blacklist for killing and injuring about 1,200 children in the war-torn country last year.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that it is "paramount" to protect sources of information used in any U.N. report, especially in a conflict area.

Therefore, he said, the U.N. will refuse a request from the coalition for sources used for the Yemen section of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's annual report on children and armed conflict.

Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi wrote to Ban on behalf of the coalition requesting the sources and other information.

Last Thursday, Ban said he temporarily removed the U.S.-backed coalition from the blacklist for violating child rights pending a joint review of cases because its supporters threatened to stop funding many U.N. programs. He accused some unnamed countries of exerting unacceptable and "undue pressure."

Ban said he stands by the report, which he said "describes horrors no child should have to face."

"We will assess the complaints that have been made, but the content will not change," he said.

Ban didn't say explicitly that the coalition could go back on the list after the review. The Saudi ambassador said last week "it is our firm belief that this de-listing is final, irreversible and unconditional."

The report said the U.N. verified a total of 1,953 youngsters killed and injured in Yemen in 2015 — a six-fold increase compared with 2014 — and it attributed about 60 percent of those casualties to the coalition. The U.N. said it also verified 101 attacks on schools and hospitals last year, double the number in 2014, of which 48 percent were attributed to the coalition.

Al-Mouallimi's letter, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, thanked the secretary-general for removing the coalition from the blacklist and said it "deeply regrets every human casualty in Yemen and reaffirms its commitment to taking every possible measure to protect all civilians in Yemen."

It notes that the monitoring of violations against children is to be done in cooperation "with national governments and relevant U.N. and civil society actors.

Therefore, it said, "the coalition requests a detailed overview of the methodology and modality that were used to create the numbers in the report and the sources relied on for said numbers."

The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen — Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates — also said it is ready to cooperate with U.N. bodies "to exchange information.

It invited a team of experts to visit coalition headquarters in Riyadh to "jointly review the cases and number (cq) in the report to ensure objectivity and accuracy."

The secretary-general had invited the coalition to New York, and Dujarric said that "would be our preference."