Dem urges support for UN human rights resolution on Yemen

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A Democratic congressman is urging the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to support a resolution that would call for an independent investigation into human rights abuses in Yemen.

“The repeated killing of civilians by the Saudi coalition, done with U.S. assistance, violates not just our moral conscience but degrades our reputation and standing in the world,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) wrote to Ambassador Samantha Power on Monday.

“As the Human Rights Council negotiates a resolution this week on Yemen, I urge you to lend your support to an independent, international investigation in Yemen.”

The council is set debate a resolution that would call for an independent mission to monitor and report on human rights abuses and violations in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Houthi rebels since March 2015. The United States supports the efforts by providing logistics such as air refueling and limited intelligence, as well as selling Saudi Arabia billions of dollars of weapons.

U.S. lawmakers have grown increasingly critical of U.S. support for that campaign, however, with a failed effort in the Senate last week to block an arms sale to Saudi Arabia being hailed as a victory in drawing attention to the issue.

U.N. human rights officials also said last week at least 329 civilians have been killed in Yemen since August, when the coalition reinvigorated its bombing campaign following the collapse of peace talks. In September alone, 149 civilians have been killed, 126 of which were attributed to the Saudi coalition, the U.N. said. In total, 3,980 civilians have been killed and 6,909 injured since March 2015, according to the U.N.

In his letter, Lieu said a team set up by the Saudi coalition to investigate reports of civilian casualties and a Yemeni national commission of inquiry to look into reported human rights abuses have proven inadequate.

“A year later, it is abundantly clear that both entities have failed to demonstrate impartiality, promote accountability and halt further atrocities,” Lieu, who has been a vocal opponent of U.S.-support for the Saudi coalition, wrote. “It is now an obvious fact that Saudi Arabia, which has repeatedly killed civilians in Yemen and repeatedly bombed hospitals and schools, cannot fairly investigate itself for the numerous atrocities and human rights violations it is committing.”

The frequent civilian deaths, he said, show the Saudis are either targeting civilians or deliberately failing to distinguish between civilians and military targets.

“Both are war crimes,” he said.

The Yemeni people, Lieu added, are facing “nearly every type of humanitarian crisis imaginable.”

“Based on my work with U.N. officials and human rights groups over the past year and a half, it is clear to me that many people in Yemen hold the U.S. responsible for the actions of the Saudi military coalition,” he wrote. “We are also potentially creating numerous recruiting opportunities for terrorists with every U.S.-enabled bomb that drops in children and civilians in Yemen.”

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