UN shuts down 'failed' Yemen war crimes panel

Bahrain says panel of investigators 'contributed to misinformation on the ground'

Members of the media record a speech during a session of the Human Rights Council at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 13. Denis Balibouse / Reuters
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The UN Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to shut down the body's war crimes investigations in Yemen after western states were defeated in an attempt to keep the mission going until 2023.

During a debate in Geneva, Bahraini ambassador Yusuf Bucheeri said the international group of investigators had “contributed to misinformation on the ground".

The government of Yemen has said the group worked in a way that was not neutral or constructive.

In the vote called by Human Rights Council member Bahrain, members voted to reject a resolution led by the Netherlands to give the independent investigators another two years to monitor Yemen's conflict.

Twenty-one countries voted against it, including China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela and Uzbekistan. Eighteen, including Britain, France and Germany, voted to support it.

The independent group was set up to identify any war crimes committed in the conflict, which was started by the takeover of parts of the country by the Iran-allied Houthi rebels seven years ago.

Dutch ambassador Peter Bekker said the vote was a major setback for supporters of the commission.

“With this vote, the Council has effectively ended its reporting mandate,” he said.

There were seven abstentions and Ukraine's delegation was absent. The US only has observer status.

The investigators, known as the Group of Eminent Experts, did not visit the country.

While other UN reports exposed the flow of arms from Iran to the Houthi fighters that have mounted cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia, the group of experts did not take up the issue.

The Yemeni Legal Centre and Tamkeen Organisation for Development and Human Rights provided a critical audit of the body last year.

Participants noted “the apparent differentiation in the way the reports of the Group of Experts dealt with many serious and grave violations of International Humanitarian Law, especially with regard to the crimes of mine-laying, child recruitment, bombing of houses, arbitrary detentions, indiscriminate shelling of civilians and torture, as well as the hierarchy of responsibility at the Houthi armed group", the organisers said.

Speakers at the workshop said offences committed by the Houthis were diluted and overlooked in the panel's reports, suggesting the oversight could be caused by lack of information and possibly the influence of external forces on the panel, which is based in Beirut.

“Based on information we have got through a deep search regarding the list of the names included in the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen, we found that some of these names are not qualified enough to do the job while others have never worked on tasks related to data collecting or carrying out investigations about the human rights violations countries ravaged by war,” said Yemeni lawyer Essam Al Shaerei.

Mr Al Shaerei, director of the Sah Organisation for Human Rights, took part in the workshop.

Updated: October 08, 2021, 4:29 AM