Seventy-two hours after the report was published, however, the Saudi-led alliance was removed from the list. Following public pressure, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, publicly acknowledged that he had been threatened with the loss of financing for humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan, and Syria if he did not remove the Saudi-led coalition.
Despite such accusations, Saudi remains a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. This, too, has sparked outrage as Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, called the placement of Saudi on the UN Council as “scandalous” citing that the kingdom has “beheaded more people this year than ISIS”.
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on the UN General Assembly to suspend Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights Council amidst criticism of Saudi’s actions in Yemen. In an open letter to the UN, the two organizations called for the immediate removal of the Saudi kingdom, writing:
“Saudi Arabia has committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its time as a Council member, and it has used its position on the Council to shield itself from accountability for its violations in Yemen.”
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the Saudi-led coalition of carrying out 69 unlawful airstrikes, killing 913 civilians and hitting homes, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian businesses, and mosques. The organizations assert that some of the airstrikes may constitute war crimes.
Earlier this year, Human Right Watch and Amnesty International also called for the United States, United Kingdom, and France to suspend all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. Philippe Bolopion, deputy global advocacy director, warned that the US, UK, and France “risk being complicit in unlawful civilian deaths.”
Saudi Arabia says that it is “alarmed and outraged” by the criticism of the human rights organizations, stating that the kingdom has complied with international law and that its primary goal is “the protection of civilians.”
The Saudi-led coalition has long been criticized for deliberately targeting civilians and public places, as well as for the use of cluster munitions, lethal explosive weapons banned under international law. Such weapons maximize civilian casualties because they release dozens of small “bomblets” that often lie unexploded and can prove fatal long after the initial attack.
The Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes in March of 2015 against the Houthi rebels that toppled the Yemeni government the previous month. Since the intervention began, more than 5,400 people have been killed and UN officials warn of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Yemen.