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The United Kingdom has blocked European Union efforts to launch an independent international inquiry into Saudi Arabia’s war of aggression in Yemen.
The Netherlands had hoped to gather support for its proposal that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva establish an inquiry to look into war crimes and civilian deaths in Yemen, The Guardian reported.
The proposal, submitted Friday by Slovakia on behalf of the EU, was replaced by a much weaker call for the UN body to dispatch a mission “to monitor and report on the situation” after the UK refused to give its backing.
Human Rights Watch and other rights groups protested the UK’s stance, accusing it of protecting its arms deals with the Saudi regime.
In an open letter to the HRC, they said an international inquiry would help “establish the facts, collect and preserve information related to violations and abuses with a view to ensuring that those responsible for crimes are brought to justice in fair trials.”
“Blocking attempts to create an international inquiry is a betrayal of the people of Yemen who have suffered so much during this conflict,” said Polly Truscott of Amnesty International. “It’s shocking. The UK ought to be standing up for justice and accountability, not acting as a cheerleader for arms companies.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson last week rejected the need for an independent investigation, saying the UK was “using a very, very wide variety of information sources” about the war in Yemen.
Since the conflict began, the British government has approved more than £3 billion in arms sales to the Saudis and military contractors hope more deals are in the pipeline.
“For 18 months now, UK arms have been central to the destruction of Yemen,” said Andrew Smith, media coordinator for the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Saudi Arabia has been pounding Yemen since March 2015, with the UN putting the death toll at 10,000. The offensive was launched to reinstate Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch sally of Riyadh, who has resigned as Yemen’s president.