UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Photo: AFP)
The United Nations on Tuesday was forced to defend its decision to remove the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen from a blacklist of child rights violators after rights groups expressed dismay.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric insisted that no final decision had been taken, and that the coalition was taken off the list pending a review that is expected to be completed before August.
"I don't think it's a reversal of policy," Dujarric told reporters. "We will see what the review is and we will adjust the list as needed."
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International blasted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the decision, accusing him of caving in to Saudi pressure and damaging the world body's credibility.
In its annual report on children in armed conflict published Thursday, the United Nations added the coalition to its list of shame after concluding it was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 children killed in Yemen last year.
Saudi Arabia reacted angrily and demanded that the report be "corrected."
Saudi Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi said the number of child deaths blamed on the coalition was "wildly exaggerated," and later proclaimed that the decision to be taken off the list was "irreversible."
Dujarric said the United Nations stands by the content of the report, but was willing to review information that the coalition "insists is important for our analysis."
"We stand by everything -- every fact and figure that is in the report," said the spokesman.