Today the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (GEE) briefed the UN Security Council in a closed session on its third report “A Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land” in which itdetailed serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Violations include airstrikes that fail to abide by principles of distinction, proportionality and/or precaution leading to high civilian casualties; indiscriminate attacks using mortar shelling; the laying of landmines; the recruitment and use of child soldiers, unlawful killings; enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, the use of torture, including sexual violence, in detention, denial of fair trial rights, the targeting of marginalized communities and the impeding of humanitarian operations, having a devastating effect on civilians in Yemen and contributing to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“Civilians in Yemen are not starving, they are being starved by the parties to the conflict,” said Kamel Jendoubi, the Chairperson of the Group.
The Group also denounced the endemic impunity for violations, which has the effect of fueling more abuses.
“The situation in Yemen has reached a ‘surreal and absurd’ dimension. The continuation of violations this year underlines the complete lack of respect for international law and human life being displayed by parties to the conflict. For civilians in Yemen, there is simply no safe place to escape the ravages of the war,” said Jendoubi.
“Our investigations this year have confirmed rampant levels of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes,” Jendoubi added in his remarks to the Council.
The Group of Experts stressed that there are no clean hands in this conflict. The responsibility for violations rests with all parties to the conflict. In its findings, the report concluded that violations have been committed by the Government of Yemen, the Houthis, the Southern Transitional Council, as well as members of the Coalition, in particular Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. However, to the Experts’ knowledge, not one person from any of the parties to the conflict has been held responsible for any violations in Yemen.
“Accountability is key to ensuring justice and a sustainable peace for the people of Yemen. We are concerned that impunity continues largely unabated for those who perpetrate serious violations, which only adds to the insecurity in Yemen. Violations of human rights need to be called out for what they are — threats to peace, security and development, and a key driver of conflict”, said Jendoubi.
The Group noted that the human rights crisis in Yemen squarely touches upon matters on the UN Security Council’s agenda, including threats to international peace and security, the situation in the Middle East, protection of civilians in armed conflict; starvation as a method of warfare; impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; women and peace and security: sexual violence in conflict; children and armed conflict: recruitment and use of children in hostilities.
The Chair of the Group Jendoubi stated, “It is now the collective responsibility of the international community to intervene to help the Yemeni people.”
The Group reiterated its call for third states to stop transferring arms to parties to the conflict given the role of such transfers in perpetuating the conflict and potentially contributing to violations.
“The continued supply of weapons to parties to the conflict is only perpetuating the conflict and prolonging the suffering of the Yemeni people” said Jendoubi.
The Group of Experts called upon the Security Council to refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court, and to expand the list of persons subject to Security Council sanctions. It called for human rights to be more fully integrated into the Security Council’s regular agenda.
It noted that such actions “would send a powerful message to the conflicting parties that there will be no impunity for serious violations of human rights.”