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Saudi Arabia removed from UN's child-killer list after 'undue' financial pressure, admits Ban Ki-Moon

Saudi Arabia had been blacklisted for killing and maiming children in Yemen

Published 10/06/2016

Ban Ki-Moon said the decision was 'one of the most painful and difficult' he has had to make as Secretary General (File photo - AP)
Ban Ki-Moon said the decision was 'one of the most painful and difficult' he has had to make as Secretary General (File photo - AP)
A Yemeni worker looks at the damage at the Noor Centre for the Blind after it was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the capital Sanaa on January 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows the rubble of the building of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry which was destroyed during air strikes on the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemenis look at destruction in the street following air strikes on the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Employees walk on the rubble of the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
An employee inspects a room inside the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A man uses his mobile to take pictures of the rubble of the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
An employee inspects a building destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
TOPSHOT - Yemeni construction workers walk with their rollers for painting in the the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni blind men hold a banner during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni blind men shout slogans during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni man inspects the damage at a site reportedly hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni blind and disabled people shout slogans during a demonstration to protest after a centre for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP/Getty Images
The civil war in Yemen has killed more than 5,800 people since March (AP)
A Yemeni man inspects the damage at a site reportedly hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon removed the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen from an annual UN register of children’s rights violators, after the middle-eastern country and its coalition partners threatened to cut off crucial funding to the world body.

The U.N.’s 2015 “Children and Armed Conflict” report originally listed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen under “parties that kill or maim children” and “parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals.”

The removal of Saudi Arabia from the list was “one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make,” said Ban Ki-Moon, describing the pressure the Arab nation had exerted on the UN as “unacceptable”.

His admission came after the coalition – which comprises the Saudis, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan – was cut from the appendix of the UN’s annual Children and Armed Conflict report, to the dismay of human rights groups.

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The UN’s own nonprofit advocacy group, Human Rights Watch, said in an open letter to the Secretary General that it was “shocked” by the decision to cut Saudi Arabia from the reprort’s “list of shame”. But Mr Ban said he was forced to consider “the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs.”

Without naming Saudi Arabia specifically, Mr Ban said children in “Palestine, South Sudan, Yemen and so many other places” stood to be affected if such programmes had to be cut. “It is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure,” he went on. “Scrutiny is a natural and necessary part of the work of the United Nations.”

The appendix lists those countries that have violated children’s rights over the preceding 12 months. UN Investigators found that the Saudi coalition was to blame for the deaths of more than half of the 510 children killed in the conflict in Yemen last year.

The Arab coalition began its campaign in Yemen in March 2015, against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and supporters of the country’s former President, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The UN claims around 6,000 people have died in the conflict to date.

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Mr Ban suggested Saudi Arabia, which is one of the biggest donors to the international organisation’s humanitarian efforts, had threatened to cancel its funding to the UN unless it was removed from the list of rights violators.

The Saudis pushed back against the accusations. “We did not use threats or intimidation and we did not talk about funding,” the kingdom’s UN ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, told reporters, adding: “It is not in our style, it is not in our genes, it is not in our culture to use threats and intimidation. We have the greatest respect for the United Nations institution.”

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However a diplomatic source told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the UN was faced with “bullying, threats [and] pressure” from Riyadh, adding that it was “real blackmail.”

The source also said there was a threat of “clerics in Riyadh meeting to issue a fatwa against the UN, declaring it anti-Muslim, which would mean no contacts of OIC [Organisation of Islamic Cooperation] members, no relations, contributions, support, to any UN projects [or] programs.”

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A Yemeni worker looks at the damage at the Noor Centre for the Blind after it was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the capital Sanaa on January 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni worker looks at the damage at the Noor Centre for the Blind after it was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the capital Sanaa on January 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows the rubble of the building of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry which was destroyed during air strikes on the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemenis look at destruction in the street following air strikes on the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Employees walk on the rubble of the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
An employee inspects a room inside the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A man uses his mobile to take pictures of the rubble of the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
An employee inspects a building destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
TOPSHOT - Yemeni construction workers walk with their rollers for painting in the the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni blind men hold a banner during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni blind men shout slogans during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni man inspects the damage at a site reportedly hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni blind and disabled people shout slogans during a demonstration to protest after a centre for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP/Getty Images
The civil war in Yemen has killed more than 5,800 people since March (AP)
A Yemeni man inspects the damage at a site reportedly hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

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