Yemen: Collective failure, collective responsibility – UN expert report

GENEVA, Sept. 3, 2019 – A UN report on Yemen released on Tuesday details a host of possible war crimes committed by various parties to the conflict over the past five years, including through airstrikes, indiscriminate shelling, snipers, landmines, as well as arbitrary killings and detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and the impeding of access to humanitarian aid in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

The Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen, created by the UN Human Rights Council, found that the governments of Yemen and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Houthis and affiliated popular committees have enjoyed a “pervasive lack of accountability” for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

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The report calls for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence committed against civilians in violation of applicable international human rights and international humanitarian law, and demands that the parties take action to protect civilians and ensure justice for all victims.

It urges other States to refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict, and reminds them of their obligation to take all reasonable measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.

“Five years into the conflict, violations against Yemeni civilians continue unabated, with total disregard for the plight of the people and a lack of international action to hold parties to the conflict accountable,” said Mr. Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of Experts on Yemen.

“The international community must multiply its efforts to free the Yemeni people from the persistent injustice they have been enduring.”

Despite a lack of cooperation by the Coalition and Government of Yemen, the Group of Experts was able during the short time available this year to conduct more than 600 interviews with victims and witnesses, to examine documentary and open-source material,  and to carry out investigations into emblematic cases to establish patterns of conduct indicative of alleged violations in Yemen since September 2014.

The Experts found reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct of hostilities by the parties to the conflict, including by airstrikes and shelling, continued to have an extreme impact on civilians and many of these attacks may amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law. The Experts further found reasonable grounds to believe that, in addition to violations related to the conduct of hostilities, the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen are responsible for arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, torture, ill-treatment, child recruitment, violations of fundamental freedoms, and violations of economic, social and cultural rights. These amount to violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable. Subject to determination by an independent and competent court, many of these violations may result in individuals being held responsible for war crimes.

The Group of Experts has identified, where possible, individuals who may be responsible for international crimes, and an updated confidential list of individuals has been submitted to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Where identification of individuals was not possible, the Experts have identified the group responsible.

“This endemic  impunity – for violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict – cannot be tolerated anymore. Impartial and independent inquiries must be empowered to hold accountable those who disrespect the rights of the Yemeni people. The international community must stop turning a blind eye to these violations and the intolerable humanitarian situation,” said Jendoubi.

The Group of Experts attributed direct responsibility to the parties to the conflict regarding the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The continued extreme impact of attacks against civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, water facilities, food transport, farms and market places, as well as the use of blockades and siege-like warfare, impeding humanitarian access, and other such measures have exacerbated the disastrous humanitarian situation.

“The inhumane deprivation of the Yemeni population of their rights to medicine, water and food should stop immediately. The very survival of the 24 million in need should be the first priority”, added Jendoubi.

The Group expressed strong concern that the parties to the conflict may have used starvation as a method of warfare, as these acts contributed to depriving the population of objects indispensable to its survival.

The Experts’ report calls on all States and international organizations to promote and support all efforts, notably those of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen to achieve a sustainable political solution including accountability.

The report urges the Human Rights Council to ensure that the situation of human rights in Yemen remains on the Council’s agenda by renewing the mandate of the Group of Experts and further suggests that the Council request the Group to continue to report to it periodically. The Group of Experts further suggested that the Council strengthen its mandate to combat impunity by requesting it to collect and preserve evidence of alleged violations.

For the full report, please go to:
In English: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/YemenGEE/Pages/Index.aspx

About the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen 

In its resolution 36/31 in September 2017, the Human Rights Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a group of eminent international and regional experts on Yemen to monitor and report on the situation of human rights. The  Group of Experts was mandated to carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and other appropriate and applicable fields of international law committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014, including the possible gender dimensions of such violations, and to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses and, where possible, to identify those responsible.

On 4 December 2017, the High Commissioner established the Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts, appointing Mr. Kamel Jendoubi (Tunisia) as Chairperson, and Mr. Charles Garraway (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), and Ms. Melissa Parke (Australia) as experts. Following the submission of the first report of the group to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/39/43) in September 2018, resolution 39/16 renewed the mandate of the Group for further year, requesting a second report at its 42nd session in September 2019.