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Rights groups urge UN chief to put Saudi Arabia back on blacklist

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon © AFP

Twenty prominent human rights groups have urged United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon to put Saudi Arabia back on a blacklist for overwhelmingly violating children's rights in Yemen.

“If the Saudi-led coalition wants to be removed from the list, it should stop killing and maiming children and bombing schools and hospitals in Yemen, the violations for which it was listed,” the groups wrote in a letter on Wednesday.

The letter was signed by 20 rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam, who accused Ban of giving in to “political manipulation” by the kingdom.

On Monday, the UN dropped Saudi Arabia from its annual blacklist, only one week after it announced the blacklisting of the regime.

Amnesty International decried the move as “blatant pandering,” which “damages the credibility of the UN as a whole.”

“The responsibility of the Saudi-led coalition for grave violations against children in many of these attacks is not in doubt,” wrote the rights groups.

“The evidence of grave violations against children in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition is overwhelming,” read the letter.

They said the UN chief’s decision undermined “an invaluable tool in efforts to curb violations against children in armed conflict.”

This file photo shows the ruins of a school hit by Saudi jets in the capital Sana’a, on February 12, 2016. © AFP

According to some diplomatic sources, Saudi Arabia and its allies have threatened to cut off funding to UN programs if the body keeps the kingdom in the blacklist.

The sources said on Tuesday that the UN chief’s office was bombarded with calls from foreign ministers of the Persian Gulf littoral states, as well as ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), after the blacklisting was announced last week.

The UN move also contradicted its recently released report that holds Riyadh responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last Year.

The report, which was released on Tuesday, attributed 510 child deaths and 667 injuries to Saudi aggression in Yemen.

More than 9,400 people have been killed and at least 16,000 others injured in Yemen since last March, when Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against the country.

Riyadh has been backed by Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain in the military campaign.

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