News ID: 318393
Published: 0320 GMT December 01, 2021

Saudis used ‘incentives, threats’ to shut down UN investigation in Yemen

Saudis used ‘incentives, threats’ to shut down UN investigation in Yemen
YAHYA ARHAB/EPA

Yemenis gather around the coffins of Houthis killed in recent clashes with Saudi-backed forces in Sana’a.

Saudi Arabia used “incentives and threats” as part of a lobbying campaign to shut down a UN investigation of human rights violations committed in the Yemen conflict, according to sources with close knowledge of the matter.

The Saudi effort ultimately succeeded when the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted in October against extending the independent war crimes investigation. The vote marked the first defeat of a resolution in the Geneva body’s 15-year history, the Guardian reported.

Speaking to the Guardian, political officials and diplomatic and activist sources with inside knowledge of the lobbying push described a stealth campaign in which the Saudis appear to have influenced officials in order to guarantee defeat of the measure.

In one case, Riyadh is alleged to have warned Indonesia – the most populous Muslim country in the world – that it would create obstacles for Indonesians to travel to Mecca if officials did not vote against the 7 October resolution.

In another case, the African nation of Togo announced at the time of the vote that it would open a new embassy in Riyadh, and receive financial support from the kingdom to support anti-terrorism activities.

Both Indonesia and Togo had abstained from the Yemen resolution in 2020. This year, both voted against the measure.

The resolution was defeated by a simple majority of 21-18, with seven countries abstaining. In 2020, the resolution passed by a vote of 22-12, with 12 members abstaining.

“That kind of swing – from 12 no’s to 21 – does not just happen,” said one official.

John Fisher, the Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, said: “It was a very tight vote. We understand that Saudi Arabia and their coalition allies and [former government of] Yemen were working at a high level for some time to persuade states in capitals through a mixture of threats and incentives, to back their bids to terminate the mandate of this international monitoring mechanism.”

He added: “The loss of the mandate is a huge blow for accountability in Yemen and for the credibility of the Human Rights Council as a whole. For a mandate to have been defeated by a party to the conflict for no reason other than to evade scrutiny for international crimes is a travesty.”

Representatives from the Indonesian and Saudi embassies in Washington and the Foreign Ministry in Togo did not respond to a request for comment.

The UNHRC first voted to establish a team of experts who would investigate possible violations of humanitarian law and human rights in Yemen in 2017.

 

   
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