GENEVA (AP) — The leading U.N. human rights body on Friday approved a compromise resolution calling for a group of “eminent international and regional experts” to monitor and report on rights abuses in Yemen, overcoming diplomatic wrangling to strike a deal to impose the highest level of scrutiny over a largely overlooked war in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states presented the amended draft resolution that won a consensus agreement at the 47-member Human Rights Council. It will give the strongest international component yet to an examination of rights violations in a country that the U.N. says faces the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster.
The resolution capped intense closed-door negotiations to bridge a divide between a version promoted by the Netherlands and Canada, which had sought an international, independent Commission of Inquiry on Yemen, and a less-intrusive Arab proposal that was ultimately beefed up.
The competing Yemen resolutions were perhaps the most contentious issue during a three-week session that ended Friday. The Associated Press obtained a letter sent by Saudi Arabia that threatened at least two countries over the Dutch-Canadian resolution, saying passage could have a “negative affect” on bilateral ties with the wealthy kingdom.
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- Part of a foot, in a shoe, spotted in Yellowstone hot spring
- Officials warn of misleading COVID rapid test results: Sick but 'negative'
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
- Trump executive pleads guilty in tax case, agrees to testify
- Betsy DeVos compares Joe Biden touching her forehead to sexual harassment under Title IX
In a late revision Thursday, the two Western countries lowered their ambitions for a formal Commission of Inquiry — one of the most thorough options for U.N. investigators — and revised their text to seek “eminent international group experts” instead. The compromise Arab text was revised Friday to incorporate that and add the “regional” aspect.
The resolution passed asks the U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, to appoint the experts by the end of the year, with a one-year, potentially renewable mandate to examine rights violations. Zeid, a Jordanian prince, has repeatedly sought a Commission of Inquiry to look into crimes including air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen. The experts are to report to the council in a year.
Still, the resolution didn’t make a direct reference to resolving a key issue: access to areas held by Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who control a large chunk of western Yemen including the capital, Sanaa. A Yemeni government-backed panel that has had support of the U.N. rights council in the past has not had the ability or willingness to travel into rebel-held zones.
Advocacy groups and the U.N. say the strikes, which have hit buildings including schools and hospitals, have led to most civilian deaths in a 2-1/2 year conflict that has taken over 10,000 lives by some counts.
Some in civil society applauded the measure.
“After more than two years of impunity for horrendous crimes in Yemen, today could mark a turning point,” said John Fisher, the Geneva director for Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “The Human Rights Council finally put in place an international independent mechanism that will bring an unprecedented level of scrutiny to the conduct of all parties to the Yemen war.”
He noted that the resolution will aim to document crimes by all sides, in hopes of accountability one day.
“U.N. member states have made clear to the Saudi-led coalition, Houthi-Saleh forces and other warring parties that the world will no longer sit silent as Yemeni homes are bombed, their loved ones abducted and their children killed and maimed by indiscriminate weapons like cluster bombs and land mines,” Fisher said.