The UN has agreed to set up an independent investigation into all alleged abuses of human rights in Yemen by all sides in the three-year civil war.
The decision by the UN human rights council is a setback for Saudi Arabia, although the kingdom – a key participant in the conflict – has fended off a full-scale UN international commission of inquiry that could have led to referrals to the international criminal court.
The compromise came after intensive talks between the Saudis, the Arab League, the Netherlands, the UK, France and the US.
A group of experts has been given a year-long mandate to report on any human rights abuses in Yemen dating back to September 2014, including seeking to identify those responsible. The proposal was passed unanimously late on Friday in Geneva and welcomed by human rights groups that had campaigned for an inquiry.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been bombing the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since the Houthis seized much of the country’s north in 2015. As many as 10,000 civilians have been killed, and the fighting has led to a wider humanitarian crisis, including the outbreak of cholera affecting a further 700,000 people and 2,000 additional deaths. The UN has said the cholera outbreak is due to airstrikes destroying water sanitation systems.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, welcomed the decision. “I think anybody that can come and see first-hand evidence … for alleged crimes against international humanitarian law or human rights, I think that will be helpful because it will shed some light on the impact of the military activity on all sides, and there are no good guys in this fight,” McGoldrick said.
“We keep trying to remind the parties of their obligations, but there has been a blatant indifference of the parties when it comes to international humanitarian law.”
Saudi Arabia had been lobbying to keep any inquiry confined to the provision of extra help to an existing Yemeni…