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A Yemeni boy kisses the forehead of a killed youngster

A Yemeni boy kisses the forehead of a killed youngster, following a reported mortar shell attack on the country's third city of Taez, on February 20, 2021. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Basha/AFP via Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia Accused of Sabotaging UN Probe of War Crimes in Yemen

"The council turned its back on victims, bowed to pressure from the Saudi-led coalition, and put politics before principle."

Andrea Germanos

Human rights defenders are expressing outrage after the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday voted against continuing a U.N.-backed probe into possible war crimes in Yemen.

Amnesty International said the outcome followed "pressure by Saudi Arabia and other coalition partners."

"Failure to renew the U.N.'s Yemen investigation is a stain on the Human Rights Council's record."

"Let it be clear," said the International Service for Human Rights following the vote. "States that voted no or abstained on [the] resolution to ensure continued international monitoring of the human rights crisis in Yemen support impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and voted against the rights, dignity, and future of the Yemeni people."

The resolution would have renewed the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) on Yemen, a group established by the U.N. council in 2017 which has since documented "unceasing suffering" by Yemenis and numerous abuses by all parties to the conflict including the Saudi-led coalition—findings the kingdom has rejected.

The renewal was narrowly defeated in a 21-18 vote. There were seven abstentions. According to Reuters, it was the first time a resolution before the body was defeated. Neither the U.S. nor Saudi Arabi is a member of the HRC.

In a statement earlier this year urging continuation of the GEE's mandate, HRC member Netherlands, joined by Belgium, Canada, Ireland, and Luxembourg, expressed concern about the ongoing and "appalling human rights situation, and the ever-deepening humanitarian crisis in Yemen."

Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa regional director at Amnesty International, said in a statement Thursday that the outcome represented "an abandonment of the people of Yemen who are today suffering under one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises."

She accused coalition members including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, of having "brazenly devoted their energy to defeating the sole international investigative mechanism on Yemen" and said the voting members who failed to back the extension "should be ashamed for having abandoned the Yemeni people in their time of need."

"This vote is, in essence, a green light to all sides to the conflict to carry on with their egregious violations which have upended the lives of millions of Yemenis over the past years," Morayef added. "Stopping the GEE will not make the violations disappear. Nor will it end the urgent humanitarian needs of Yemeni civilians, the work of brave human rights defenders and organizations in Yemen, nor our work to support them."

Ahead of the vote, Human Rights Watch called GEE's work "vital" as it "remains the only international, impartial, and independent body reporting on rights violations and abuses in Yemen."


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