June 6-12: Saudi coalition removed from blacklist, shelling continues in Ta'iz

Monday, June 6According to UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Yemen's warring parties agreed to the unconditional release of all child prisoners. There was no immediate word on how many children are held prisoner by either side. The announcement comes following the UN's annual report on children and armed combat, which detailed abuses by all sides of Yemen's conflict. The parties have so far failed to reach an agreement on a wider prisoner release for the month of Ramadan.

Saudi Arabia unleashed harsh criticism of the UN following the inclusion of the kingdom in an annual report on children in armed combat, which named the Saudi-led coalition as the side responsible for most of the child casualties in Yemen in the past year. Saudi coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri said that the findings were based on inadequate evidence supplied by Saudi Arabia’s adversaries.

Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that its hospitals in Ta’iz received 122 people on June 3 alone following intense fighting and continuous shelling in the war-torn city.

Tuesday, June 7 Following protests by Saudi officials of the UN’s decision to blacklist the coalition in Yemen, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon removed Riyadh from the report. The UN said it would carry out a review of the accusations, but the Saudi envoy to the UN called the decision “final.”

The reversal was a result of Saudi Arabia threatening to sever ties with the UN and withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism programs.

Human rights groups condemned the removal of the Saudi-led coalition from the report, with Amnesty International saying it is “unconscionable that this pressure was brought to bear by one of the very states listed in the report,” while Human Rights Watch accused the UN of “capitulating to the demands of Saudi Arabia,” adding that the move “undermines Ban’s human rights initiatives and taints his legacy.”

Also on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia reportedly released 54 child prisoners between the ages of 8 and 17 to Yemen government forces. The children were captured during fighting with the Houthis. The move is intended to show that Yemen’s government and the Saudi-led military coalition “reject the Houthi crime of using children in war.”

Wednesday, June 8 Yemen was named in the 2016 Global Peace Index as the country that experienced the most rapid decline in peacefulness within the past year. Although it still ranks higher than Syria, which is at the bottom of the list, Yemen’s peacefulness was estimated to have dropped 15% within one year, more than any other nation.

The report found Yemen had suffered its biggest losses as a result of increases in death from conflict and “a massive rise in the number of refugees and internally-displaced people.”

Thursday, June 9 Commenting on the removal of the Saudi-led coalition from the UN blacklist, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he 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.”

The programs that would have been impacted include humanitarian assistance in South Sudan, the Palestinian territories, and Syria.

Mr. Ban said he stood by the annual report’s conclusions, but added that, “it is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure. Scrutiny is a natural and necessary part of the work of the United Nations.”

Friday, June 10 A Reuters report outlines the essential policies implemented by the Central Bank of Yemen, and its governor Mohammed Bin Humam, that have saved the country from total financial collapse.

"The CBY represents the last bastion of the financial system in the impoverished country and is effectively running the economy, according to central bank officials, foreign diplomats and Yemeni political sources on both sides of the war."

Despite the bank’s best efforts and practices, Yemen’s exports have ceased and it is running critically low on foreign exchange reserves.

The UN human rights office condemned a week of rocket and mortar attacks on markets and residential areas in Ta’iz that resulted in the death of 18, including seven children, and injured 68 others.

“All victims belonged to a marginalized community, the Muhamasheen, and had taken refuge in the school after having been forced to flee their homes due to ongoing violence,” the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Saturday, June 11 A short piece by Al Jazeera highlights the “immeasurable” crisis that Yemenis are facing during the holy month of Ramadan. With high temperatures and scarce electricity, along with a lack of food and water, Yemenis are fasting under extremely difficult circumstances.

“‘This could be the worst year in the history of Yemen, especially with the start of the holy month of Ramadan,’ Abdesalam al-Mahtoury, an economic analyst, said.”