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  • Smoke rises from a snack food factory after a Saudi-led air strike hit it in Sanaa, Yemen.

    Smoke rises from a snack food factory after a Saudi-led air strike hit it in Sanaa, Yemen. | Photo: Reuters

Saudi Arabia and its allies have previously blocked every attempt to instate an independent international investigation into alleged war crimes in Yemen.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has agreed to initiate an independent investigation into human rights violations in Yemen, after a compromise was worked out between a group of European countries and Saudi Arabia, who has previously opposed and blocked such an investigation from occurring.

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The compromised investigation, which will send a group of experts to report back in a year on human rights violations in the war-torn country, is significantly softer than the original proposal put forth by the Netherlands and backed by several European Union countries and Canada. The original proposal called for the highest level UN investigation possible, a Commission of Inquiry that would be capable of bringing charges to international court.

"A credible international investigation is necessary in order to comprehensively, transparently, independently and impartially establish facts and circumstances surrounding violations with a view to put an end to the cycle of impunity in Yemen and to help prevent future violations,"  Dutch ambassador Monique T.G. Van Daalen said to the council.

Still, the Friday compromise represents a setback for Saudi Arabia who has adamantly blocked any kind of international investigation for several years despite pressure. The Saudi monarchy and its allies instead supported the existing national investigation, that most international observers have said is insufficient and incapable.

In part of the behind-doors negotiations that led to the compromise, oil producing giant Saudi Arabia reportedly threatened that “political and economic” actions if the Dutch proposal for a full-scale inquiry was backed.

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The United States, United Kingdom, and France meanwhile, did not back the Dutch proposal, but rather pushed for and supported the compromise that was eventually reached without a vote.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition has been waging a heavy bombing campaign, as well as a blockade of Yemen since 2014, in an effort to reinstall the ousted Yemeni government after Houthi rebels took power.

The pummeling has destroyed civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, and resulted in massive civilian casualties. Lack of sanitation and clean water has also resulted in the worst cholera outbreak in recent history, with the Red Cross announcing this week that they expected Yemen to have at least a million cases by years end.

The UN has repeatedly called the situation in Yemen a humanitarian crisis.


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