Saudi and UAE reject UN report, reaffirm commitment to protect Yemeni civilians
Saudi Ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al Mouallimi said that the kingdom rejects “the inaccurate and misleading information and figures” contained in the UN annual report on Children and Armed Conflict
Saudi Arabia and the UAE rejected on Friday a UN report that criticised the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen to restore the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi. Both countries also reaffirmed their commitment to protect children and civilians.
Saudi Ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al Mouallimi said that the kingdom rejects “the inaccurate and misleading information and figures” contained in the UN annual report on Children and Armed Conflict.
"We think there is no justification whatsoever for the coalition to be listed anywhere because we are conducting activities there in accordance with international legitimacy, in accordance with international law" and with a 2015 Security Council resolution, he said.
"We are making an effort to try to preserve and protect children and all other civilians."
Mr Al Mouallimi told reporters that the coalition, which includes the UAE, exercises “the maximum degree of care and precaution to avoid civilian harm”.
The UAE also rejected the report, saying that it stands “firmly” by Saudi Arabia and the statements of Mr Al Mouallimi.
“The mission affirms that the UAE stands firmly aligned with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the coalition in rejecting the inaccurate information and statistics in the [UN] report,” said a statement by the Permanent Mission of the UAE to the UN. “The coalition is committed to the protection of all civilians in armed conflict, particularly children.
“Fundamentally, every child lost or injured is one too many and must be avoided. As such, the coalition remains committed to its obligations under international law in the conduct of its campaign.”
In the report submitted to the UN Security Council on Thursday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres criticised the coalition for allegedly killing or injuring 683 children in Yemen in 2016 while fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mr Guterres however concurred that the coalition had taken action to improve child protection.
Mr Al Mouallimi reiterated that the coalition is taking measures to reduce casualties by continually refining rules of engagement.
Last month, Saudi Arabia also established "a child protection unit" in coalition headquarters, staffed by a colonel and two officers, he said.
Its aim is to ensure that all units, commands and operations are carried out and have safeguards that "protect children as much as possible", he said.
"So we are trying to do our best in that regard, and we will need to continue to improve on our best."
The UN report also blacklisted Houthi rebel groups for violations against children.
Mr Al Mouallimi said the Houthis used civilians and children as human shields.
He also said the coalition believes the Houthi child casualties are "underrepresented" and the coalition figures are "over-represented" because the sources of information are in Houthi-controlled territory.
The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting alongside the forces of the internationally-recognised government since March 2015, based on a UN Security Council resolution.
The UN is leading an effort to restart a stalled peace process to bring all Yemenis to a negotiated end to the war and restore an internationally-recognised and legitimate government in Sanaa. The Houthis have thus far rejected these efforts.
Updated: October 7, 2017 01:25 PM