Saudi Arabia should be suspended from the UN Human Rights Council (OHCHR) over its conduct in Yemen, two leading human rights charities have said.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint statement calling for the country to have its membership rights immediately suspended from the group as it has “committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its time as a Council member”.
It highlighted the actions of a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen – where it is alleged to have carried out “indiscriminate” air attacks on civilian targets such as several Medecin Sans Frontieres run-hospitals.
The statement also accused Saudi Arabia of repeatedly using banned cluster munitions in heavily populated civilian areas.
It said: “Despite well-documented violations by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, there has been no accountability.
“Saudi Arabia has failed to conduct credible, impartial and transparent investigations into possible war crimes and has used its position on the Human Rights Council, aided by its allies, to effectively obstruct the creation of an independent international investigation, as urged by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.”
Saudi Arabia began airstrikes in Yemen in March 2015 in a bid to push back Shia Houthi rebels – who had gained control of vast swathes of the country – and prop up the ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
International commentators have called the Yemen conflict a proxy war between Shia-dominated Iran and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.
More than 9,000 people are believed to have been killed in the 15-month conflict with 14 million – approximately half the population – in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.
But Riyadh said in a statement it was “alarmed and outraged” by the claims, saying the coalition’s main goal in Yemen was “the protection of civilians”.
A statement by the Saudi UN mission said: “Saudi Arabia and the coalition have complied with international law at every stage in the campaign to restore Yemen's legitimate government.
“We deeply regret any loss of life”.
Saudi Arabia’s appointment to the 47-member OHCHR in 2013 caused widespread outrage as the country has been dubbed “one of the most human rights abusing regimes on Earth”.
The UK Government has been accused of voting for Saudi Arabia to join the council in a secret vote-swapping deal.
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