Many Human Rights Organizations have decried the latest adopted United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Yemen, after Netherland withdrew its draft resolution which was strongly opposed by Saudi Arabia. Although at first glance one would think that both drafts are similar (both available in this link), however a close examination to the points and wording of both shows the difference between them and hence explains why it was opposed by Saudi Arabia.
First, the Dutch draft resolution was under the title “Situation of human rights in Yemen” while the Saudi resolution was entitled “Technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights” . The Saudi resolution dilutes the dire human rights situation in Yemen and reduces it to technical and capacity building in a country that is in armed conflict.
Second the preamble of the resolution is the same borrowed from the Dutch version but one paragraph was omitted (paragraph 9): “Aware of reports by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that the existing humanitarian emergency affects the enjoyment of social and economic rights, and also of the appeal by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator that the parties to the conflict must ensure that humanitarian aid is facilitated and not hindered,”….. why does Saudi Arabia want to downplay and dilute the importance of any reports on the humanitarian situation in Yemen published by UN agencies and the appeal in this regard?
Third, as for the operative paragraphs (1) and (2) of the Dutch text merged into paragraph (1) in the Saudi text:
- There is a difference between “welcoming” (Dutch text) and “taking note” (Saudi text) of report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Yemen,
- and “the call upon all parties to address the recommendations made in the report” (Dutch text) was omitted from the Saudi text.
- The Saudi text instead stressed on “welcoming” the debate ,which is of no value, and welcomed the statements and comments of the Yemen Government (that called in the coalition and is guarded by it) and the ”willingness” of this government to cooperate with OHCHR while the Dutch text “took note” of the statements of and comments and the willingness of the Yemen Government to cooperate.
Upon examing each point individually one can notice how the difference in the wording can have an affect on the meaning and therefore the action.
In point (3) Dutch which is (2) Saudi
- The Dutch express deep concern at human rights violations “by all parties”, this was omitted in the Saudi resolution.
- “including indiscriminate attacks resulting in the killing and injuring of civilians” was omitted from the Saudi draft because it also points to them. There was also a statement on the militias in the Dutch draft.
Dutch point (4) was omitted “Also expresses deep concern at the ongoing armed violence in Yemen, and in particular the recent escalation of violence approaching Sana’a;”
Dutch point (5) calls upon all parties to respect their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, to stop immediately attacks on civilians, to ensure humanitarian access to the affected population nationwide, and to allow commercial imports to all Yemeni ports; (underlined phrase was omitted from Saudi text because they are applying the blockade replaced by (3) Saudi “Calls upon all parties in Yemen to respect their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law to stop immediately attacks on civilians and to ensure humanitarian access to the affected population nationwide”; note the phrase IN YEMEN.
Dutch point (6) which is Saudi (4) has two major omissions. The Dutch version calls on to “ensure an effective investigation, in accordance with international standards” which was omitted from the Saudi text so was the phrase “while securing the viability of that investigation”.
Dutch point (7)” Calls upon all Yemeni parties to enter into a political process in an inclusive, peaceful and democratic way, ensuring that women are part of political and peacemaking processes, also calls upon all Yemeni parties to implement fully the relevant Security Council resolutions, the implementation of which will contribute to the improvement in the human rights situation, and notes that Security Council resolution 2216 (2015) contains specific concerns and/or places particular demands on Saleh- and Houthi-led militias, including to release safely political prisoners and journalists”
which is Saudi point (5) stresses SC resolution 2216 as a basis because it refers to the militias and Saleh and makes it sound the base for the rest of the paragraph while the Dutch stresses first “enter into a political process in an inclusive, peaceful and democratic way, ensuring that women are part of political and peacemaking processes, also calls upon all Yemeni parties to implement fully the relevant Security Council resolutions and notes SC resolution 2216.
Dutch point (8) is the same as Saudi (6) except that the Dutch directs the operative paragraph to “Demands that all parties to the conflict” while the Saudi directs the operative paragraph to “all Yemeni parties to the conflict”
Dutch point (9) and Saudi (7) are same, listing treaties Yemen is signatory to.
Dutch point (10) and Saudi (8) minor omission from Dutch “on the ground”
Dutch point (11) and Saudi (9) is normal UN language addressed to UN bodies.
Dutch point (12) Saudi (10) more or less the same but Saudi text added reference to Presidential Decree 140/2012 and there is a difference “ in meeting “ international standards and “in accordance” with international standards.
Dutch point (13) Saudi (11), Dutch requests monitoring the human rights situation and to collect and conserve info while the Saudi does not and both suffices with an “oral update on the situation of human rights in Yemen at the 31st session and a comprehensive report at the 33rd session but Dutch stresses ”including in particular a comprehensive review of the set-up, progress and work of the national independent commission of inquiry” which the Saudi text omits and stresses that written report is "on the development and implementation of the present resolution."
As such, the Saudi text excludes the coalitions role in human rights violations and their role in imposing a blockade on Yemen for the past 6 months which has hindered humanitarian assistance and access of necessary food, fuel and medical imports. Not to mention the credibility and impartiality of the national commission which the Dutch tried to draw attention to. The call to abide with international law and the accountability for war crimes and human rights violation is hence addressed to the Yemeni parties not the coalition.
'By failing to set up a serious UN inquiry on war-torn Yemen, the Human Rights Council squandered an important chance to deter further abuses' ~ Philippe Dam, Geneva deputy director at Human Rights Watch
'This resolution reflects a shocking failure by the Human Rights Council to meet its obligation to ensure justice and accountability, and sends a message that the international community is not serious about ending the suffering of civilians in Yemen. It was drafted by Saudi Arabia, which is leading the military coalition that has itself committed serious violations of international law in Yemen, with evidence pointing to war crimes.' ~ James Lynch, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.