U.N. ends Yemen war crimes probe in defeat for Western states

Yemen's war shifts focus to Marib as UN hopes for a ceasefire
FILE PHOTO: A pro-government tribal fighter stands at a position where he fights against the Houthis in Marib, Yemen October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Owidha

October 7, 2021

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) -Bahrain, Russia and other members of the U.N. Human Rights Council pushed through a vote on Thursday to shut down the body’s war crimes investigations in Yemen, in a stinging defeat for Western states who wanted to keep the mission going.

Members narrowly voted to reject a resolution led by the Netherlands to give the independent investigators another two years to monitor atrocities in Yemen’s conflict.

The independent investigators have said in the past that potential war crimes have been committed by all sides in the conflict that has pitted a Saudi-led coalition against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

Dutch ambassador Peter Bekker said the vote was a major set back. “I cannot help but feel that this Council has failed the people of Yemen,” he told delegates.

“With this vote, the Council has effectively ended its reporting mandate, it has cut this lifeline of the Yemeni people to the international community.”

Rights activists said this week that Saudi Arabia lobbied heavily against the Western resolution.

The kingdom is not a voting member of the U.N. Human Rights Council and its delegation did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

During the debate, Bahraini ambassador Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri said that the international group of investigators had “contributed to misinformation on the ground” in Yemen.

In the vote called by Saudi ally Bahrain, 21 countries voted against the Dutch resolution including China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela and Uzbekistan. Eighteen including Britain, France and Germany voted to support it.

There were seven abstentions and Ukraine’s delegation was absent. The United States only has observer status.

Radhya Almutawakel, chairperson of the independent Yemeni activist group Mwatana for Human Rights, said she was deeply disappointed by the vote.

“In voting against the renewal of the GEE’s mandate, they have voted to abandon the Yemeni people,” she said, referring to the independent investigators known as the Group of Eminent Experts.

“By voting against the renewal of the GEE today, UN member states have given a green light to warring parties to continue their campaign of death and destruction in Yemen,” she added.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrew Heavens)

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