World Must Hold Saudi Coalition to Account for Killing Children

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TEHRAN (FNA)- There is a reason why the autocratic regime in Riyadh has issued a royal pardon for any and all Saudi troops engaged in the war on Yemen, covering all war crimes related to violating military rules and discipline.

This is not to show appreciation for the “heroics” of the invading forces; this is to escape international justice and accountability. The US-backed Saudi invasion of Yemen has been widely controversial and condemned internationally. Saudi airstrikes have killed massive numbers of Yemeni civilians and the illegal war has caused a famine and the largest cholera epidemic in human history.

Faced with UN criticism, Riyadh heavily resisted allegations of wrongdoing and ultimately got the UN to agree that Saudi Arabia would be allowed to investigate its own forces – and hold them to account. This pardon shows none of that is going to matter.

That says why the protracted war shows no sign of ending, and why there is no suggestion from official reports that the Saudis had punished any of their troops more than nominally for war crimes in the first place.

That also says why last year a politicized decision was taken at the United Nations to remove the Saudi-led coalition from the ‘Children in Armed Conflict’ list despite clear evidence of grave violations against children being committed. The coalition members were removed from the list. The decision was due to threats from the United States and Saudi Arabia to withdraw funding from the UN, according to the former Secretary-General of the world body, Ban Ki-moon.

This was a mistake. However, the international civil society never gave up on that. Many peace activists, international rights groups and aid agencies once again called on the UN to make sure all those who have killed and maimed children in Yemen are named in this year’s ‘Children in Armed Conflict’ report – including the Saudi-led coalition. They have decided to stand up for Yemen’s children, now and in the future, and they succeeded, but not completely. This time, the UN tried an exit plan, and also included the other side of the war in Yemen – the Ansarullah resistance movement – in the list without even a shred of evidence as if it were the Ansarullah’s fighter bombers that massacred thousands of defenseless people in blind airstrikes on the impoverished nation, or as if it were the resistance forces that have laid siege on the poor nation on sea, land and in the air to starve millions of people, including children, to death. Yet, even this much of success to name the Saudi rulers in the list of child killers wouldn’t have happened without the actions of thousands of people working together.

Under International Law and the UN Charter, therefore, everyone that commits grave violations against children should be listed, no matter how powerful they are. The inclusion of the Saudi-led coalition on the list this year means that they will now be named for violations that include recruiting terror proxies, bombing schools and hospitals, and killing and maiming children.

Going forward the UN and wider international community must also make sure that violations by Saudi Arabia and its allies come to an end. Being added to this shameful list should act as a wake-up call to everyone – and countries that are supporting or arming them, including the United States, Britain and France.

These countries should be held to account for their grave violations as well. Fighter jets and ground forces from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Academi (formerly Blackwater) mercenaries are still taking part in the operation. Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia are also making their airspace, territorial waters and military bases available to the coalition – the same coalition that has imposed an immoral air and sea blockade against Yemen.

To that end, the United States provides intelligence and logistical support, including aerial refueling and search-and-rescue for downed coalition pilots. It accelerates the sale of weapons to coalition states. The US and Britain have deployed their military personnel in the command and control center responsible for Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen’s populations, having access to the lists of targets.

All these coalition members are involved in the fighting and refuse to rule out using force. They kill Yemenis and prevent Ansarullah fighters from operating within Yemen in order to lift the illegal blockade. This clearly makes them complicit in Saudi crimes. They should be included in this year’s UN report of ‘Children in Armed Conflict’ and list of shame, and subsequently be held to account for their grave violations against children in Yemen. They shouldn’t be allowed to escape international justice.

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