Saudi-led coalition unleashes fresh criticism on UN Yemen rights mission

Saudi-led coalition unleashes fresh criticism on UN Yemen rights mission
The Saudi-led coalition launched fresh criticism on the UN's Yemen rights mission on Friday, a day after Yemen's government ended cooperation with the probe.
4 min read
28 September, 2018
UN peace efforts in Yemen have so far failed [Getty]

The Saudi-led coalition battling Yemeni rebels alongside government forces on Friday strongly criticised a UN human rights mission as its mandate comes up for renewal.

The coalition said any extension should be a matter for the Yemeni government, which already announced on Thursday that it was ending cooperation with the UN investigation into suspected war crimes during more than three years of conflict.

But it again took strong issue with an August 28 report by the panel, which accused both government forces and Houthi rebels of violations but said that coalition airstrikes had caused "most of the documented civilian casualties" and voiced "serious concerns about the targeting process".

In comments released to AFP through the Saudi information ministry, the coalition criticised the "inaccuracy of the information in the report, which was derived from non-governmental organisations and the testimonies of some persons whose circumstances are unknown".

It said the report "failed to mention Iran’s role in Yemen, and the countless violations perpetrated by the Houthis, both against the Yemeni people and against the kingdom" of Saudi Arabia. 

"These violations include targeting the kingdom using Iranian ballistic missiles - aimed at civilian and religious sites," it added. 

The coalition says the rebels have fired more than 185 missiles at Saudi Arabia since it intervened in Yemen in March 2015 when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile as they closed in on his last stronghold.

It accuses Saudi arch-foe Iran of smuggling in the missiles through the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida, the entry point for UN aid for millions of desperately needy civilians that is currently under attack by government and United Arab Emirates troops.

The UN Human Rights Council, which appointed the panel of experts a year ago, is expected to decide imminently on a request by the body to continue its investigation into the "extremely alarming" situation.

Last week, Human Rights Watch accused Saudi Arabia of mounting a "campaign to discredit and undermine a UN investigation into abuses by all Yemen's warring parties", calling it "yet another blatant attempt to avoid scrutiny of the coalition's own actions in Yemen”.

Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates, which are leading a coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, are both members of the Arab group on the 47-member rights council. 

"The Saudi-led coalition's campaign to discredit and undermine a UN investigation into abuses by all Yemen’s warring parties is yet another blatant attempt to avoid scrutiny of the coalition's own actions in Yemen," John Fisher, HRW's Geneva director, said in a statement. 

"The Human Rights Council cannot afford to fail Yemeni civilians. States should renew the mandate of the (probe) or risk the Council's credibility," he added. 

The United Nations says there have been more than 10,000 confirmed deaths in the conflict since the coalition intervened in 2015, although the real number is far higher.

'World's worst humanitarian crisis'

Observers say Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition that intervened in the conflict in March 2015 on behalf of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government in the fight against Houthi rebels, is actively working to quash the international probe.

Yemen has since descended into what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with thousands of people killed and millions at risk of starvation. 

The coalition has been accused of bombing multiple civilian targets, including buses and hospitals. 

Earlier this month, Save the Children warned more than five million children are at risk of famine in Yemen as the ongoing war causes food and fuel prices to soar across the country.

Disruption to supplies coming through the embattled Red Sea port of Hodeida could "cause starvation on an unprecedented scale," the UK-based NGO said in a new report.

Save the Children said an extra one million children now risk falling into famine as prices of food and transportation rise, bringing the total to 5.2 million.

Three quarters of the population - or 22 million people - are in need of humanitarian aid, according to UN figures.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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