Rights activists have condemned plans by the US to establish an international committee to investigate human rights violations in Yemen, where a Saudi-UAE led coalition has been waging a devastating war for seven years.
According to a report in the Guardian yesterday, the Biden administration is looking to set up the new body months after a Saudi lobbying campaign quashed an independent probe by the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE), mandated by the UN Human Rights Council into alleged abuses.
According to Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, a prominent Yemeni human rights defender, he discussed Washington's plan to create a new "international mechanism" to investigate war crimes at a recent meeting at the US State Department. "They are working on a very, very bad mechanism that can replace the [UN body]," he said. "First of all, the starting point is that the mandate is weak, and second, it is not independent at all."
Faqih is the co-founder and executive director of Mwatana for Human Rights, a group which monitors and documents war crimes and other abuses. He described the proposal by the State Department as a "slap in the face" for civilian victims of the war.
Washington, claimed Faqih, is also considering the inclusion of representatives from Yemen's Saudi-backed Presidential Leadership Council which was formed in April after the Riyadh-based Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi stepped aside. Hadi transferred his powers to the council.
A senior official in a Geneva-based human rights group also spoke of talks to replace the GEE, which had been "simmering" for a while. The issue could be raised before the Human Rights Council in September.
Washington's own record of examining human rights abuses in Yemen has come under scrutiny following a Congressional watchdog report released last month that found that the US government had not fully investigated its own role in perpetuating human rights abuses in the war torn country. The report also raised serious doubts about Biden's commitment to ending US support for Saudi air strikes in Yemen.
Revelations of the proposal comes ahead of President Joe Biden's tour of the Middle East, where he is scheduled visit Saudi Arabia amid efforts to repair strained ties between Washington and Riyadh. He will be on the first direct flight to the kingdom from Israel, amid growing speculation that normalisation with Tel Aviv will be on the agenda when he meets de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.