Saudi Arabia 'undeserved' of Human Rights Council seat

Saudi Arabia 'undeserved' of Human Rights Council seat
Leading human rights groups are continuing to ramp up pressure on the UN to penalise Saudi Arabia for the civilian deaths caused by Riyadh's military campaign in Yemen.
3 min read
30 June, 2016
Saudi Arabia should be suspended from the UN Human Rights Council due to its the civilian death toll from its military actions in Yemen, two leading human rights group urged on Wednesday.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on UN-member states to expel the kingdom from the Geneva-based council that promotes and protects human rights worldwide.

It cited Riyadh's activities in Yemen as the reason, where Saudi forces are is leading an Arab coalition military camaign against Houthi rebels, but has led to massive civilian casualties.

"Over the past few months, Saudi Arabia has gone beyond the pale and does not deserve anymore to sit on the Human Rights Council," said HRW deputy director Philippe Bolopion.

Riyadh is using illegal cluster bombs, preventing basic goods to reach those in need and targeting civilians in its war in Yemen, Human Rights Watch suggested.

"Saudi Arabia is in a league of its own," Bolopion told a news conference, adding that the kingdom is "getting away with murder in a way that no other country has been able to do".

The latest remarks follow pressure from twenty human rights groups on Wednesday who urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reverse his decision and put the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen back on a "list of shame" for the deaths of children in Yemen.

Ban decided to remove the coalition from the annual list of child rights violators under pressure from Saudi Arabia, which reacted furiously to the decision and threatened to cut off funding to UN agencies.

Diplomats and UN officials said Saudi Arabia had also enlisted allies from the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League to lobby Ban to make the changes.

"The secretary-general's decision flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that violations by the Saudi-led coalition have killed and maimed hundreds of children in Yemen," said Jo Becker, a director at Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International, the Child Rights International Network, Oxfam and Physicians for Human Rights were among the 20 groups that made the appeal in a letter sent to Ban.

The United Nations blacklisted the coalition after concluding in a report released Thursday that it was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 children killed in Yemen last year.

Three days later, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that the coalition would be scratched from the list pending a joint review with the Saudi-led alliance.

Saudi Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi said the number of child deaths blamed on the coalition was "wildly exaggerated", and later proclaimed that the decision to be taken off the list was "irreversible".

The coalition launched an air campaign in support of Yemen's President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi in March 2015 to push back Houthi rebels after they seized the capital Sanaa and many parts of the country.

The war has left some 6,400 people dead, with more than 80 percent of the population in desperate need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.