NY Times: Saudi Objections Halt U.N. Inquiry of Yemen War
The aftermath of an airstrike Sept. 5 in Sana, Yemen. The Saudi-led air campaign has caused heavy civilian casualties. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
GENEVA — In a U-turn at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Western governments dropped plans Wednesday for an international inquiry into human rights violations by all parties in the war in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians in the last six months.
The change of direction came as the Netherlands withdrew the draft of a resolution it had prepared with support from a group of mainly Western countries that instructed the United Nations high commissioner for human rights to send experts to Yemen to investigate the conduct of the war.
That proposal was a follow-up to recommendations by the commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who detailed in a report this month the heavy civilian loss of life inflicted not only by the relentless airstrikes of the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia but also by the indiscriminate shelling carried out by Houthi rebels.
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The Dutch resolution also called for the warring parties to allow access to humanitarian groups seeking to deliver aid and to the commercial import of goods like fuel that are needed to keep hospitals running. Deliveries of aid and other goods have been slowed by the coalition’s naval blockade of Yemeni ports.
But in the face of stiff resistance from Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, and to the dismay of human rights groups, Western governments have accepted a resolution based on a Saudi text that lacks any reference to an independent, international inquiry.
Instead, the new resolution supports a decree, issued by the exiled Yemeni government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, appointing a national commission of inquiry. It asks the United Nations human rights office only “to provide technical assistance and to work with the government of Yemen, as required, in the field of capacity building.”
Mr. Hadi’s government is supported by Saudi Arabia and is a party to the war, commanding loyal forces in Yemen that are fighting the Houthi rebels.
“The result is a lost opportunity for the council and a huge victory for Saudi Arabia, protecting it from scrutiny over laws of war violations which will probably continue to be committed in Yemen,” said Philippe Dam, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Geneva.