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Rights Group Calls for Saudi Arabia's Removal From Human Rights Council

FILE - In this April 20, 2015 file photo, Saudi soldiers fire artillery toward three armed vehicles approaching the Saudi border with Yemen in Jazan, Saudi Arabia.

The rights group Human Rights Watch has called on the United Nations General Assembly to suspend Saudi Arabia's membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council, citing the country's leadership in a military operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia, leader of a nine-nation coalition that began its mission in Yemen in March 2015, has been implicated in "numerous violations" of international humanitarian law.

Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy for Human Rights Watch, said Saudi Arabia "has amassed an appalling record of violations in Yemen" while serving as a member of the Human Rights Council, and has damaged the group's credibility with what Bolopion called its "bullying tactics to avoid accountability."

Human Rights Watch and fellow rights group Amnesty International say they have documented 69 unlawful airstrikes by the coalition, killing at least 913 civilians and hitting homes, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian businesses, and mosques.

The groups say some of those actions may amount to war crimes.


They also say they have documented 19 attacks involving cluster munitions, which are banned internationally.

Human Rights Watch says Saudi Arabia should be banned from the Human Rights Council until it ends unlawful attacks in Yemen and conducts "credible investigations that meet international standards" and cooperates with an independent international inquiry.

Saudi Arabia has not commented on Wednesday's statement, but in the past it has said that it is responding only to truce violations by the Houthi rebels. It has also said it does not target civilians.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has estimated that more than 3,500 civilians have been killed and 6,200 have been wounded since March 2015.