Saudi Impunity Continues as UN Ditches Probe Into Yemen War Crimes

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Saudi Impunity Continues as UN Ditches Probe Into Yemen War Crimes

Proposal would have mandated a probe into human rights violations committed on all sides of Yemen's conflict

Children fleeing Saudi coalition bombings in Sanaa, April 6, 2015. (Photo: Abdullah Ali/Reuters)

Children fleeing Saudi coalition bombings in Sanaa, April 6, 2015. (Photo: Abdullah Ali/Reuters)

Caving to stiff opposition from Saudi Arabia, western countries on Wednesday abandoned their proposal for a United Nations inquiry into human rights violations committed during the six-month-old military assault on Yemen—which is led by the powerful Gulf monarchy and backed by the U.S.

The Netherlands tossed out its draft resolution, which had gained backing from other governments, following a vigorous diplomatic campaign from Saudi Arabia. The proposal would have mandated the UN High Commissioner to dispatch a team to investigate human rights violations on all sides of Yemen's ongoing war. It would have also required all parties to allow humanitarian aid to reach people in need.

The development was met with immediate rebuke from rights campaigners.

"The western decision to block the investigation is a disgrace to everything they stand for—from democracy to human rights," Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni activist currently based in the U.S., told Common Dreams.

"How much more destruction do they need to see for an independent investigation to happen? How much longer are we going to watch entire communities be terrorized and wiped out? By blocking the investigation they are standing with the Saudis and are complicit in the war crimes," added Alwazir, who is a co-founder of Support Yemen Media.

"How much more destruction do they need to see for an independent investigation to happen? How much longer are we going to watch entire communities be terrorized and wiped out?"
—Rooj Alwazir, Support Yemen Media

According to Amnesty International, the Saudi coalition is responsible for the vast majority of the at least 2,355 civilians killed and 4,862 wounded since bombings began in late March. Earlier this week, the coalition bombed a Yemeni wedding party and killed at least 131 people. The attack followed Saudi-led strikes on humanitarian aid warehouses, internally displaced persons camps, factories, densely populated residential neighborhoods, schools, shelters, and water infrastructure.

What's more, the UN estimates that roughly 20 million people, or 80 percent of Yemen's population, are in need of humanitarian aid, but the U.S.-backed naval blockade is preventing food and medical supplies from getting through.

The Dutch proposal was the product of rising urgency—including the call, earlier this month, by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein for an "international, independent, and impartial" investigation into human rights violations. Numerous human rights groups, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch, have escalated their demand to end Saudi impunity.

Instead, western governments are throwing their weight behind a Saudi-supported resolution that omits any mention of an independent inquiry.

"It is regrettable that the only consensus possible at this Council seems to be its failure to establish an independent, international mechanism to investigate violations and abuses by all sides in Yemen," Human Rights Watch said in a statement released Thursday.

"Such a mechanism would have been crucial to confront continued impunity for crimes committed in the country, but also to send a clear message to all parties that they should respect their international legal obligations to protect civilians and other non-combatants," the organization continued. "The increasingly desperate Yemeni population should not be ignored by the world's preeminent human rights body."

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