The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, made a shocking admission when he told reporters he had yielded to Saudi Arabia’s demands in response to big money.
The confession came several days after Mr. Ban removed a Saudi-led coalition from a blacklist of armies that kill and maim children.
In March 2016, the same military coalition bombed a restaurant and a crowded market in Northern Yemen, killing dozens of people. As many as 90 people were killed in the airstrike, one of the deadliest airstrikes in Yemen’s civil war, according to a New York Times article. Children’s bodies, twisted in the rubble, were visible in footage broadcast on a Houthi news channel.
Just last week, Mr. Ban’s office had issued a report on violations of children’s rights in war zones, citing the Saudi-led coalition for its role in killing more than 500 children in the Yemen War. After intense lobbying by Saudi Arabia and other wealthy allies, however, the coalition was taken off the list by Monday.
Mr. Ban told reporters on Thursday that the Saudis had threatened to pull funding for various humanitarian programs, including those in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan, and Syria, if he did not remove the coalition from the list.
“This was one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make,” Mr. Ban said. “I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many U.N. programs,” he added.
He went on to indirectly rebuke Saudi Arabia for its behavior. “It is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure,” he said. The Saudi ambassador quickly declared that there had been no pressure.
Human rights activists have attacked Mr. Ban for caving to pressure. Human Rights Watch published an open letter Wednesday to Mr. Ban condemning his actions.
“Your decision to remove the Saudi-led Coalition from the list—even temporarily pending ‘review’ —following protests by the Saudi government sets a damaging precedent and undermines the list’s credibility,” the letter reads.“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.”
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