Skip to main content

UN calls for urgent investigation into Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen

The UN rights chief has said Saudi-led strikes are responsible for the majority of more than 5,000 verified civilian deaths
A Yemeni child sits next to the grave of a loved one in a cemetery in the capital Sanaa on the first day of Eid (AFP)

The United Nations has verified 5,144 civilian deaths in the war in Yemen, mainly from air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, and an international investigation is urgently needed, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Monday.

"The minimal efforts made towards accountability over the past year are insufficient to respond to the gravity of the continuing and daily violations involved in this conflict," Zeid said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

It is the third year running that he has appealed for an international inquiry into human rights violations in Yemen where a two-year conflict pits the Saudi-backed Yemen government against Iran-supported Houthi rebels. 

The comments from Zeid come after his office said last week that the 47 countries on the Human Rights Council were not taking their responsibilities seriously, and urged them to probe the "entirely man-made catastrophe".

The UN says the civil war has created the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, with the conflict compounded by an economic collapse that has pushed millions to the brink of famine.

The crippling of the health and sanitation systems has enabled cholera to take hold with unprecedented speed, with about 650,000 people infected since late April, five times the global cholera caseload in 2016.

During the three-week UN Human Rights Council session, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands are expected to propose rival resolutions, inviting the council to continue backing Yemen's national human rights probe or to set up its own inquiry.

For the past two years, Saudi Arabia has prevailed, but the situation in the country has not improved, and Zeid's office has said Yemen's national investigation is not up to the job.

The draft Dutch resolution backs Zeid's position, a Western diplomat said.

"The common assessment is that the situation has deteriorated. The compromise that was put in place last year hasn't delivered," the diplomat said. "One of the resolutions will need to be dismissed."