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Call for UN human rights probe into Yemen violations dropped after Saudi pressure

After Dutch call for independent probe withdrawn, alternative Saudi draft resolution demands investigation by Yemeni government
A Yemeni boy stands next to a petrol station damaged during six months of war (AFP)

The Netherlands dropped a call for an independent investigation into the human rights situation in Yemen on Wednesday, reportedly under intense pressure from Saudi Arabia.

A Dutch draft resolution submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council had proposed establishing an international, independent inquiry into violations committed by all sides in a six-month war that has left thousands of civilians dead.

However, the Netherlands withdrew its draft resolution on Wednesday – the move came as a result of pressure from Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, the New York Times reported.

Saudi Arabia and four of its GCC partners, excluding Oman, have been leading a six-month air and sea campaign aimed at routing Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Both sides of the conflict are accused of committing flagrant human rights abuses and violations of international law that have left thousands of civilians dead.

In a meeting last week with Yemen’s current President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his “extreme concern” over the civilian death toll of the conflict, and was particularly troubled by the number of people killed as a result of airstrikes.

An alternative draft resolution was prepared by Saudi Arabia, which is currently chairing the human rights council despite controversy over alleged vote-trading deals to ensure its place on the panel, rescinds a call for “an investigation into all cases of violations and abuses of human rights”.

Instead, the Saudi draft proposes that the government of Yemen, led by its ally President Hadi, establish its own commission of inquiry into alleged human rights abuses.

The United States, which has been providing tacit assistance to the Saudi-led military campaign, said last week that it “supports” calls for an investigation, but hoped to find “a consensus solution” agreed upon by all members of the human rights council.

The decision to cancel the planned inquiry comes just days after fighter planes thought to be part of the Saudi-led coalition bombed a wedding party in southern Yemen, killing more than 130 people.

Most of the dead are thought to have been women and children, and if confirmed the strike will be the single deadliest incident since the start of the bombing in March.

The coalition’s spokesperson, Saudi General Ahmed al-Assiri, has denied any involvement in the attack, saying the front “always admits its mistakes when it makes them”.

The Saudi-led coalition, which also includes countries like Sudan, Egypt and Morocco, has been criticised by Amnesty International for conducting “indiscriminate airstrikes in violation of international humanitarian law”.

In one incident attributed to the coalition, 45 people were killed when fighter jets bombed a camp for internally displaced people in northern Yemen.

In July, coalition planes allegedly struck residential compounds at a power plant in southern Yemen, killing 65 civilians.

Houthi rebels and their allies, the intended target of Saudi-led airstrikes, are also accused of violating international law by shelling residential areas indiscriminately and arbitrarily arresting non-combatants.

In July Houthi fighters allegedly fired mortars at residential areas of Aden, the principal city in Yemen’s south, killing dozens of civilians.

In a previous incident at least 40 people were killed when the boat they were using to flee the fighting was shelled from the shore.