Moment of Truth for UN Rights Council As Death Toll Mounts in Yemen
Saudi Arabia must not be allowed to derail internationals investigations once more
Geneva,05 September 2016:UN member states face an important decision at the upcoming Human Rights Council (13-30 September) between responding to the call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to carry out an international investigation into war crimes committedby all sides to the conflict in Yemen; and adhering to pressure by Saudi Arabia and allied states and allow impunity to prevail. The stakes could not be higher, according to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).
In a press conference on 30 August, a senior UN humanitarian official said that at least 10,000 civilians, likely many more, have been killed in the last year and half in Yemen, and 80 percent of the population, more than 20 million people, are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Many of the civilians killed have died in indiscriminate airstrikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia led coalition forces.
In the previous year, the Human Rights Council in response to calls from the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and civil society; the Netherlands led a resolution to establish an international investigation into war crimes in Yemen. The effort was derailed whenstrong pressure by Saudi Arabia persuaded allied member states, including the United Kingdom and United States, to end support for the Netherlands initiative. The Council must act. An international investigation is long overdue. Impunity is feeding a cycle of devastating violence and making peace impossible in Yemen.
The national investigation promised to be carried out by Yemen in September 2015 has not materialized. The “national commission” has released its report without demonstrating sufficient independence and few investigations into alleged crimes linked to the Saudi military coalition have occurred. According to OHCHR, the National Commission of Inquiry has been “Unable to implement its mandate in accordance with international standards.”
After the collapse of the 6 August peace talks held in Kuwait, the Saudi coalition resumed its bombing campaign in Yemen. Meanwhile, Houthis rebels continue to violate International Law including by recruiting child soldiers, carrying out indiscriminate shelling of civilian populated areas and the use of landmines. Terrorist attacks have also increased in the country. As schools, hospitals and homes are being bombed, and innocent civilians killed on a daily basis. States must make the protection of the Yemeni people a priority above politics. The Council’s credibility will be severely damaged if it fails once more to ensure an investigation into crimes in Yemen is carried out.
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