Human rights activists said on Thursday that Saudi Arabia has exerted intense pressure on a discussion on extending the mandate of United Nations investigators who documented war crimes in Yemen that were committed by the Saudi-led coalition.
The proposal, submitted by several countries including the Netherlands and Canada, is scheduled to be discussed Thursday at a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Afrah Nasser, a Yemen researcher at US-based organisation Human Rights Watch, said that: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a major party to the conflict in Yemen and accused of serious violations including war crimes, along with its coalition allies, is engaged in a campaign of unrelenting pressure to deter states in the Human Rights Council from renewing the mandate of the investigator group.”
She added that “if the Council acquiesced to Saudi pressure and fails to extend the mandate for two more years, it would be a disgrace on the council’s credibility and a slap in the face for the victims.”
A joint statement issued by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana said that “a Saudi pressure campaign appears to be intensifying worldwide, in an attempt to cancel support for the decision and thwart the group of investigators.”
In his latest presentation of his report last month, Kamel al-Jendoubi, head of the independent expert group, said that the coalition’s airstrikes “continue to inflict heavy casualties on the civilian population.”
Al-Jendoubi added that “since March 2015, it is estimated that the coalition has carried out more than 23,000 airstrikes and that more than 18,000 civilians have been killed or injured.”
The international experts’ report had affirmed that the crimes committed in Yemen amount to war crimes, pointing to the need to refer the Yemeni file to either a special independent international court, or to the International Criminal Court.