NGOs slam UN move to dump Yemen abuses probe as 'grave failure'

NGOs slam UN move to dump Yemen abuses probe as 'grave failure'
Despite tens of thousands of deaths and rife violations of human rights amid a deadly years-long conflict, the UN Human Rights Council voted to get rid of its group of experts investigating abuses in Yemen.
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Tens of thousands have died in Yemen [Getty]

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) said the United Nation's move to get rid of its group of experts investigating abuses in Yemen is a "grave failure".

The comments by the NGO came after the 47-member council voted against renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen (GEE) - the first time the United Nations' top rights body has ever rejected a draft resolution since its foundation in 2006, a spokesman for the council told AFP.

This amounted to "a blatant attempt by Saudi and its allies to ensure blanket impunity for themselves after having been linked to war crimes and other grave violations of international law in the country," Jeremie Smith, director of the CIHRS Geneva office, said.

"Today's vote represents a grave failure - one that will inevitably lead to more violence and suffering in Yemen," he added.

"States who voted against the renewal or abstained have chosen to appease Saudi Arabia instead of protecting the lives of millions."

Speaking earlier before the council, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said there was no peace in sight in Yemen.

"Parties to the conflict have continued to act with little regard to their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law," she said.

"Numerous attacks targeting or disproportionately impacting civilians or civilian objects during the past year may amount to war crimes.

"Parties to the conflict also continue to commit extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture, child recruitment and forced displacement, among other violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law."

She said urgent funding was needed to avert large-scale famine in the impoverished country.

In a statement by Human Rights Watch, the global organisation also slammed the move as a failure.

“The failure to renew the UN’s Yemen investigation is a stain on the Human Rights Council’s record. By voting against this much-needed mandate, many countries have turned their back on victims, bowed to pressure from the Saudi-led coalition, and put politics before principle," John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch said.

"As the Yemen crisis continues unabated, countries need to redouble their efforts to scrutinise the conduct of all parties including by supporting accountability through the use of universal jurisdiction,” he added.

The draft resolution seeking to extend the GEE's mandate for a further two years was brought forward by several European nations and Canada.

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Some 21 countries voted against the draft resolution, 18 voted in favour, seven abstained and Ukraine did not register a vote at all.

Those voting in favour included Argentina, Brazil, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and South Korea.

The countries voting against included Bangladesh, China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines and Russia.

Japan was among the abstentions.

Yemen's grinding conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, resulting in what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations calls Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis. About 80 percent of Yemen's 30 million people are dependent on aid.

The conflict erupted in 2014 when Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa, prompting a Saudi-led military coalition to intervene the following year in support of the government.