Jordan rejects damning UN human rights report on Yemen

Jordan rejects damning UN human rights report on Yemen
3 min read
28 September, 2015
Jordan has rejected a report released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Yemen, which said the Saudi-led coalition forces may have committed war crimes
Jordan is at odds with UN human rights cheif Zeid Raad al-Hussein [Anadolu]
Jordan's Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Judeh rejected a report released earlier this month by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

The report said that the Saudi-led coalition forces may have committed human rights violations in Yemen and targeted civilians as well as civilian facilities in the country.

In a statement on the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, Judeh stressed that Jordan, "as member of the coalition that aims to restore legitimacy in Yemen," affirms that operations of the coalition forces came upon the request of the legitimate government of Yemen and its president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

These operations he added, are part of commitment to the UN Security Council resolution 2216.
The Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened
following the Houthi rebel takeover of the capital Sanaa

The UN Human Rights Commissioner is Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein of Jordan. Responding to criticism made by some Arab countries against his office's reports, al-Hussein said the issue was not "personal," and that he represented a UN organisation whose work is based on international charters, values and principles.

Violations on both sides

In mid-September, the United Nations human rights chief had called in Geneva for an independent inquiry into alleged violations in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition and by the Houthi rebels the coalition is fighting.

The call was made during the opening of a month-long session of the Human Rights Council, which will hear reports on a number of crises, including in Syria and in Ukraine, and a long-awaited one on investigations into mass killings of civilians in Sri Lanka at the end of its civil war and later.

The report in question provided details about airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition and about the shelling of civilian targets by the Houthis and their affiliated forces, among other violations, that it said might amount to war crimes.

Coalition airstrikes killed at least 941 civilians and injured 2,295 in May, June and July, according to the report.

The air campaign, in conjunction with a naval blockade the coalition has imposed on Yemen's main ports, had "dramatically worsened" the country's humanitarian crisis, the report said.

Forces affiliated with Houthi rebels had attacked schools and mosques, the report also said, in addition to shelling of civilian areas and sniper attacks.

More than 2,000 civilians have been killed and 4,000 wounded in the Yemen conflict. The fighting has left 21 million people, or 80 percent of the population, in need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.

Rival resolutions

Dutch diplomats want the UN human rights chief to send a mission to report on possible abuses and conflict-related crimes in Yemen.

Last week, the Netherlands submitted a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in the face of another co-sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-Yemeni resolution wants the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide "technical assistance" to Yemen's government.

However, the Dutch resolution sets the stage for back-channel diplomatic wrangling to pass a resolution that may authorize creation of a fact-finding mission in Yemen before the Human Rights Council session ends on October 2.

The Human Rights Council has no power to compel countries to act, but its actions can shine a spotlight on human rights violations.

Philippe Dam, Human Rights Watch's deputy director in Geneva, praised the "important demonstration of principled leadership" by the Netherlands and said Arab states like Saudi Arabia appear "determined to avoid any scrutiny" of the war in Yemen.