“States at the UN Human Rights Council stood firm today, in the face of shameful efforts by the Saudi-led coalition to quash a UN expert inquiry.” — General Director, Human Rights Watch
SANA’A, YEMEN — The families of war victims have welcomed a UN Human Rights Council resolution extending the mandate of an international investigation into war crimes in Yemen, describing the vote as a step that shows the Council stands with those who have lost loved ones.
Amar Fares, who lost her entire family in Saudi airstrikes that targeted her home in northern Yemen’s Heidah district last year, told MintPress News:
The extension of the mandate for an international investigation gives us hope for the first time. Maybe I will see part of justice achieved.”
On Friday, the top human-rights body of the United Nations voted 21 to 8 with 18 abstentions in favor of prolonging a resolution that renewed an inquiry into human rights abuses in Yemen. The top human-rights body also voiced serious concerns about the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition’s targeting process. Saudi Arabia and its allies receive intelligence and assistance from the United States in selecting airstrike targets in Yemen.
Supporters of the resolution, including the European Union, argued that an expert group mandated by the Council last year still had work to do. The approved resolution calls on investigators to deliver another report next September.
The Saudi-led coalition has tried to abort the mandate. Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed last month that Saudi Arabia mounted a campaign to discredit and undermine the UN investigation into abuses in Yemen, saying the Saudi effort “is yet another blatant attempt to avoid scrutiny of the coalition’s actions in Yemen.”
Last month, UN investigators said in a report that coalition airstrikes had caused heavy civilian casualties and that some may amount to war crimes. The report further confirmed that airstrikes have bombed Yemen’s residential areas, markets, weddings, medical facilities, and funerals. The report also accused the Houthis of war crimes.
HRW ‘s Geneva director said in a statement:
States at the UN Human Rights Council stood firm today, in the face of shameful efforts by the Saudi-led coalition to quash a UN expert inquiry.”
Meanwhile, the coalition and its mercenaries rejected the Council resolution, claiming that it was prejudiced. Coalition members in the Council backed a rival resolution that called on its mercenaries’ human-rights commission to take charge of future investigations into war crimes.
Saudi Arabia, the Saudi-backed former Yemeni government, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt released a joint statement in the wake of the Council’s action:
We are left with a resolution which is biased, and which clearly contradicts the clear mandate laid out by the United Nations Security Council. In particular, we are disappointed that certain member states failed to consider the real and legitimate concerns of those states who are most affected by the situation in Yemen.”
For its own part, the Saudi-backed former government of Yemen announced on Thursday that it was ending cooperation with the UN investigation into war crimes committed during more than three years of conflict, saying in a statement:
We refuse to extend the mission’s mandate because its findings, outlined in the report, did not meet the standards of professionalism and impartiality or the basic principles of the United Nations.”
Yemeni authorities — as well as all political parties, including the Houthis and General People’s Congress Party based in Sana’a — have welcomed the UN Human Rights Council resolution, saying:
We are in readiness to facilitate the work of the international team to complete the investigations..We also call for the formation of an independent and impartial international commission with broad powers and a sufficient period of time to investigate all crimes committed in Yemen.”
The UN said there have been nearly 10,000 confirmed deaths since the Saudi coalition launched its military campaign in 2015. Three-quarters of the population — or 22 million people — remain in dire need of humanitarian aid. The World Food Program (WFP) warned on Thursday that there could very well be famine in remote areas of the country, where the UN’s food agency does not have access.