The UN Human Rights Council’s failure to open an international investigation into violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights law, committed as part of the devastating conflict in Yemen marks a dark day, said Amnesty International.
The Council today adopted a resolution tabled by Saudi Arabia on behalf of Arab states involved in the conflict and the Yemeni government of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which fails to establish an international mechanism to investigate such violations and abuses by parties to the conflict.
“This resolution reflects a shocking failure by the Human Rights Council to meet its obligation to ensure justice and accountability, and sends a message that the international community is not serious about ending the suffering of civilians in Yemen,” said James Lynch, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“It was drafted by Saudi Arabia, which is leading the military coalition that has itself committed serious violations of international law in Yemen, with evidence pointing to war crimes.”
The resolution makes no mention of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and fails to mention expressly the coalition’s ongoing military campaign in Yemen. It requests the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to assist a national commission of inquiry set-up by the internationally recognized Yemeni government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia.
“The Yemeni government has failed so far to launch credible investigations into allegations of atrocities committed by all sides to the conflict. The government is also not in effective control of much of the country,” said James Lynch.
“We believe that the only way to ensure the truth is through an effective and independent international investigation.”
The Government of the Netherlands had been pursuing a resolution that called for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an independent international investigation, but withdrew its draft on 30 September after failing to gain sufficient international backing.
The Yemeni authorities have failed to hold thorough and independent investigations into past human rights violations, including into abuses committed in the context of anti-government protests in 2011.
“Unfortunately, the past failures of the Yemeni authorities do not bode well for their ability to hold perpetrators accountable, provide adequate reparation to victims and their families and ensure security forces comply with international human rights standards,” said Lynch.
“Since the conflict began, an atmosphere of impunity has prevailed in which violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights abuses and violations have gone unchecked. Replacing impunity with accountability is crucial to preventing such crimes from becoming more widespread and entrenched.”
More than 2,300 civilians, including at least 400 children, have been killed in the conflict. While Amnesty International has documented abuses by all parties to the conflict that may amount to war crimes, including the Huthi armed group and the anti-Huthi armed groups, the vast majority of civilian casualties have been caused by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which is backed by the USA and UK.
Coalition forces have also used banned cluster munitions, which are indiscriminate by nature, and have been found to be produced or designed in the USA. Across Yemen, a desperate humanitarian crisis is escalating, and nearly 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes.