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U.N. establishes panel to probe Yemen war crimes

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations agreed on Friday to set up a panel to examine all alleged human rights violations committed in Yemen’s war and identify those responsible.

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi Mansour, President of the Republic of Yemen, addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

In a last-minute compromise hammered out between Western powers and Arab countries, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted by consensus, without a vote, a resolution that the Yemeni delegation accepted.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who will name the international experts to the panel, has called three years in a row for an inquiry into alleged war crimes in Yemen, saying that a national commission has proved inadequate.

“We believe that this urgent request could no longer be ignored,” Dutch ambassador Monique T.G. Van Daalen told the Geneva forum on behalf of a core group of Western states.

“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,” she added.

Britain and the United States spoke in favour of the text, while Yemen’s delegation declared “our acceptance”.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been bombing the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since the Houthis seized much of the country’s north in 2015.

U.S. charge d’affaires Ted Allegra told the Council: “We believe the Council speaking with one voice on Yemen is essential to address the worsening situation there, and to encourage the parties involved in the conflict to come to the table – not to mention for the integrity of the Council.”

John Fisher, Geneva director of the U.S.-based campaign group Human Rights Watch, said that “after more than two years of impunity for horrendous crimes in Yemen, today could mark a turning point”.

“U.N. member states have made clear to the Saudi-led coalition, Houthi-Saleh forces and other warring parties that the world will no longer sit silent as Yemeni homes are bombed, their loved ones abducted and their children killed and maimed by indiscriminate weapons like cluster bombs and landmines,” Fisher said in a statement.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey