Saudi Arabia avoids UN scrutiny of Yemen air attacks

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The UN Human Rights Council on Friday called on the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels in Yemen to spare civilians in a Saudi-drafted resolution that omitted a Western plan for a UN-led war crimes probe.

The Netherlands had initially proposed that the UN Human Rights Office collect evidence of serious human rights violations on the ground, after the office reported killings of civilians by all sides in the conflict, as well as recruitment of child soldiers.

According to UN rights investigators, nearly two thirds of the civilian deaths until June allegedly resulted from coalition attacks.

However, Arab countries and Yemen’s government, which is in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh, did not support the Dutch plan and introduced their own resolution at the Geneva-based rights council.

This resolution only asks the UN rights office in Geneva to assist Yemen in developing its capacity to protect human rights, and in its domestic process for probing past abuses.

All 47 countries represented on the UN rights council, including Western countries, adopted the Saudi text on Thursday.

“There was a feeling that a larger consensus was more important than a sharper resolution,” a Western diplomat told dpa.

However, the United States’ Geneva envoy Keith Harper warned that “should the situation on human rights in Yemen fail to improve, we call upon this council to take further action.”

The non-governmental group Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the Western stance.

“The US, UK and France appear to have capitulated to Saudi Arabia with little or no fight, astoundingly allowing the very country responsible for serious violations in Yemen to write the resolution and protect itself from scrutiny,” HRW representative Philippe Dam said in Geneva.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies launched their air campaign in March against Yemen’s Houthi fighters, after the rebels forced President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi into exile. More than 2,300 civilians have since been killed.

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