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Sat 2 Jul 2016 12:48 AM

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Groups urge UN Human Rights Council suspension of Saudi Arabia

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International call for suspension over 'unlawful airstrikes' in Yemen

Groups urge UN Human Rights Council suspension of Saudi Arabia

International rights groups have called on the United Nations General Assembly to immediately suspend Saudi Arabia’s membership rights on the UN Human Rights Council.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International made the call, saying a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly may suspend the membership rights of any Human Rights Council member engaged in "gross and systematic violations of human rights".

The groups claimed Saudi Arabia, as the leader of the nine-nation coalition that began military operations against the Houthis in Yemen in March 2015, has been implicated in numerous violations of international humanitarian law.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said they have documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the coalition, some of which may amount to war crimes, killing at least 913 civilians and hitting homes, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian businesses, and mosques.

The two organisations added in a statement that they have also documented 19 attacks involving internationally banned cluster munitions, including in civilian areas.

"Saudi Arabia should be suspended from the Human Rights Council until it ends unlawful attacks in Yemen and conducts credible investigations that meet international standards or agrees to and cooperates with an independent international inquiry," the statement said.

“Saudi Arabia has amassed an appalling record of violations in Yemen while a Human Rights Council member, and has damaged the body’s credibility by its bullying tactics to avoid accountability,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch.

“UN member countries should stand with Yemeni civilians and suspend Saudi Arabia immediately.”

The statement said UN institutions have repeatedly denounced violations by the Saudi-led coalition, as well as by the Houthi forces and their allies. In 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon found the coalition responsible for 60 percent of recorded child deaths and injuries, and nearly half of 101 attacks on schools and hospitals.

Earlier in 2016, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for the United States, United Kingdom, and France to suspend all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until it curtailed its unlawful airstrikes in Yemen and credibly investigated alleged violations.

The two rights groups claimed that since Saudi Arabia joined the Human Rights Council in January 2014, its crackdown on all forms of dissent at home has continued unabated, executions have surged, and discrimination against women and the Saudi Shia minority community remains systematic and entrenched.

“As the Human Rights Council commemorates its tenth anniversary, it should be recommiting to accountability, not allowing countries that commit gross and systematic abuses to remain members,” said Bolopion. “The General Assembly’s failure to suspend Saudi Arabia could seriously harm the rights council’s credibility.”