03:30 GMT08 May 2021
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    As Saudi Arabia was added to the annual UN report on children and armed conflict over its alleged role in the deaths of almost 700 children in Yemen during a military operation in the country, a Britain-based NGO has commented on the issue.

    LONDON (Sputnik) — The United Nations blacklisting Saudi Arabia in its annual report on children and armed conflict is a sign of growing opposition in the organization and in the international community to the military campaign that the Riyadh-led coalition is carrying out in Yemen, a spokesman for the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) told Sputnik.

    "This is more evidence that the UN and the international community is taking a stronger line on what's been happening in Yemen. The brutal bombardment of Yemen by Saudi Arabia is long standing and controversial, but it's only possible because of allies like the UK who insist on selling them weapons despite abundant evidence of civilian casualties," Andrew Smith told Sputnik.

    Saudi Arabia was added to the report, submitted to the UN Security Council on Thursday, over its alleged role in the deaths of almost 700 children in Yemen. Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict noted in a Thursday press release that at the time of drafting of the report, Saudi Arabia established a child protection unit at the coalition headquarters.

    A number of other parties were listed in the document, including the al-Qaeda terrorist group (banned in Russia) and the Houthi movement, fighting the government headed by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is supported by the Saudi-led coalition. However, the inclusion of Riyadh drew special media attention. It was reported to have been included in the draft of the 2016 report and then pulled back over pressure on the United Nations.

    "We know that there was a large amount of lobbying and blackmailing taking place behind the scenes last year to have Saudi Arabia omitted from blame in previous reports on child casualties. This got so severe that even the UN formally came out and said that kind of lobbying was unacceptable, so when the UN announced recently that this investigation was going ahead there was yet more lobbying to have that process diluted," Smith said.

    CAAT has actively campaigned against the United Kingdom's sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, which, according to the NGO, were used against civilians. The organization has launched legal action challenging the UK government's decision that the sales could continue, but the UK high court ruled in favor of the UK government in July.

    "When weapons are sold into war zones it makes the seller complicit in the deadly outcome. The UK has a definite responsibility for what's happening here and needs to end the arms exports; it's not making anyone any safer and thousands of people have died because of this," Smith said.

    The United Nations said in June that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had recorded a total of 13,504 civilian casualties, 4,971 killed and 8,533 injured, since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015.

    Related:

    Saudi Threats, US Silence Block UN Probe of Civilian Deaths in Yemen - HRW
    Saudi-Led Coalition Sends Artillery Reinforcements to Yemen
    Human Rights Watch Accuses Saudi Arabia of Committing War Crimes in Yemen
    Tags:
    arms trade, children, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
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