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Saudi Arabia shuts down UN probe over Yemen

The UN is facing criticism over ditching an inquiry into the Yemen conflict in favor of a Saudi-led initiative. The civil war has sparked a humanitarian crisis, with thousands killed and millions in need of aid.

The United Nations backed a Saudi-led resolution on Friday to support Yemen's exiled government in setting up an inquiry into human rights violations, having ditched an earlier attempt led by the Netherlands for a full inquiry into violations in Yemen since September 2014.

Human Rights Watch called the Saudi-led resolution approved by the UN's Human Rights Council "deeply flawed" and criticized the Dutch for backing down after "intense pressure from Saudi Arabia."

"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, its Geneva deputy director, said in a statement.

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states has been bombing Yemen over the past six months to try to restore a Yemeni government forced into exile by Houthi fighters, who they claim are backed by regional rival Iran.

US, UK back Saudi-led military strikes

Jemen Saudi-arabischer Luftschlag in Sanaa

A man mourns for his relatives killed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa, September 19, 2015

Rights groups have accused both sides of carrying out indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas.

The Saudi-led proposal calls on Yemen's government to protect civilians, and calls on armed groups to release political prisoners. It asks the UN human rights chief to report next year on the situation - though no debate on the matter has been scheduled.

Yemen's Human Rights Minister, Ezzeldin Al-Asbahi, from the Saudi-backed exiled government pledged that his government would do more to ensure abuses are investigated.

"They will not disregard any violation of human rights in my country," Al-Asbahi told the Human Rights Council, shortly before its 47 members gave the resolution unanimous backing.

The United States, which has supported the Saudi-led military campaign notably with midair refueling aircraft, initially supported the Netherlands' resolution for an independent inquiry, but later - along with Britain - backed the Saudi's resolution.

According to UN rights investigators, nearly two-thirds of the civilian deaths until June allegedly resulted from coalition attacks.

The conflict has stirred a humanitarian crisis, with more than 5,000 people killed, including 500 children, and 21 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

UNHCR says millions of children at risk

During the six months since Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels began in March to defend embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, at least 505 children have died and 702 have been injured, said Christophe Boulierac, spokesman for the UN children's agency.

"These are conservative figures," Boulierac told reporters in Geneva."The situation for children is deteriorating every single day, and it is horrific."

The nutrition situation, which already before the conflict was dire in Yemen, has meanwhile worsened significantly, he said, pointing out that 1.7 million children were at risk of malnutrition.

Some 1.4 million people have meanwhile been displaced by the fighting.

jar/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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