GENEVA — Britain, France, Iran and the United States may be complicit in potential war crimes in Yemen by providing weapons and logistical support to forces committing abuses, U.N. human rights experts reported on Tuesday.
A group of international experts, assigned by the U.N. Human Rights Council to look into possible war crimes by all sides to Yemen’s civil war, found the governments of Yemen, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, along with the Houthis and their allies, operate with a “pervasive lack of accountability” while violating international humanitarian and human rights law.
The war began in 2014 when the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north. A Western-backed alliance of Sunni Muslim Arab nations, led by Saudi Arabia, has been trying to prop up the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was driven from Sanaa by the militia in 2015.
The report pointed to airstrikes, indiscriminate shelling, snipers, landmines, arbitrary killings and detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and blocked access to humanitarian aid in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The experts also said they were deeply concerned that the warring sides may have used starvation as a weapon of war.
“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 Kamel Jendoubi, a Tunisian politician and human rights activist who chairs the group of experts.
“The international community must multiply its efforts to free the Yemeni people from the persistent injustice they have been enduring,” he said.
GEE recommend states strengthen their mandate at #UN Human Rights Council this month, incl. to collect + preserve evidence of abuse and report directly to HRC.
Thread below. https://t.co/Vs2xUGmb8I
— Kristine Beckerle (@K_Beckerle) September 3, 2019
Confidential list of names
The U.N. expert group said it interviewed more than 600 victims and witnesses, examined documentary and open source material and carried out investigations into “emblematic cases” that helped to establish patterns of conduct, despite a lack of cooperation from the coalition and Yemen’s government.
“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 said in a statement from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, or OHCHR.
A confidential list of names of people who may be responsible for international crimes was submitted to Michelle Bachelet, who heads OHCHR. The experts said that when an individual responsible for the crimes could not be identified, it supplied the name of a group.
“This endemic impunity — for violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict — cannot be tolerated anymore,” said Jendoubi.
“Impartial and independent inquiries must be empowered to hold accountable those who disrespect the rights of the Yemeni people,” he said. “The international community must stop turning a blind eye to these violations and the intolerable humanitarian situation.”
The experts urged the Human Rights Council to keep Yemen high on its agenda by not only renewing their mandate to investigate the situation further, but also by requesting periodic updates — and by strengthening the mandate through the collection and preservation of evidence of alleged violations.