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UN Committee Blasts Saudi Arabia on Yemen Child Deaths

FILE - Yemeni men carry the coffin of a boy who was killed by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike, during a funeral in Saada, Yemen, Aug. 13, 2018.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has condemned Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen's civil war, which has killed and injured hundreds of children and been responsible for conditions leading to large-scale hunger and malnutrition.

Saudi Arabia is one of six countries the committee’s experts looked at in regard to implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The experts presented their concluding observations Thursday in Geneva.

Given the conflict in Yemen, the 18-member Committee on the Rights of the Child agrees it was always going to be difficult to have a discussion with Saudi Arabia about the kingdom's involvement in the war. The United Nations calls the war in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.

The U.N. reports around 1,300 children have been killed and an equal number injured by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen since war started in March 2015. The conflict in Yemen pits Iran-backed Houthi rebels against a Saudi-led coalition that backs the country's internationally recognized government.

Committee vice chair Clarence Nelson said the Saudi delegation made one concession during the dialogue. He said it acknowledged coalition airstrikes were responsible for what it called “accidental” casualties among children.

FILE - Yemenis attend the funeral of victims of a Saudi-led coalition airstrike, in Saada, Yemen, Aug. 13, 2018.
FILE - Yemenis attend the funeral of victims of a Saudi-led coalition airstrike, in Saada, Yemen, Aug. 13, 2018.

He told VOA the committee questioned the credibility of the team Saudi Arabia set up to investigate these so-called accidents.

‘Now, the problem, and this is what we pointed out to them, with this team is, firstly, it is set up by the coalition. They essentially are investigating themselves. Secondly, it is comprised of members from coalition countries. So, it does not involve any non-coalition countries. And thirdly, the information that we have is that it is not investigating all 'accidents.' "

Nelson noted civilians account for about 20 percent of all casualties in Yemen, many of them children.

He said the committee suggested Saudi Arabia take steps to restore the independence of the team, possibly by creating a more credible international body. He adds no one has been held publicly accountable or prosecuted for any crimes.

Nelson also says the Saudi delegation told the committee it would consider its observations and concluding recommendations.