In this Council’s 10th anniversary year, there has been much discussion about impact: about whether its resolutions can produce not just outputs, but effect real change for those who face violations in countries around the world. Otherwise, why are we here?
This debate could not be more acute than in the case of Yemen.
One year ago, the Council had the opportunity to put in place an independent international investigation into civilian deaths and injuries in the country, an opportunity to bring meaningful scrutiny to the conduct of a conflict that is costing lives. The Council failed to do so. Since then, the civilian death toll has continued to rise. Nearly 11,000 civilians have been killed or injured since March 2015.
In his recent report, the High Commissioner again appealed to this Council to do what it should have done a year ago: create the independent, international mechanism that is so desperately needed.
Yemeni civilians did not ask for this conflict. But they are the ones paying the price. Schools have been bombed, hospitals have been bombed, homes and marketplaces have been bombed. The High Commissioner reports that last month alone, a further 180 civilians were killed and 268 injured, an increase of 40 percent over the previous month.
Just last week, an airstrike on a residential area in Hudaydah killed 26 civilians, including 7 children, injuring 24 others.
Let’s be clear about what that means: the Saudi-led coalition was bombing civilians in Yemen while they were negotiating the text of the resolution. Parties to a conflict cannot be allowed to dictate the terms of a resolution in order to block meaningful international scrutiny of their own actions. It undermines this Council and its commitment to accountability.
This is not just about the conduct of the coalition. The Houthi armed group and allied forces have also committed numerous abuses. Civilians have lost their lives and their limbs from landmines and indiscriminate shelling. An international investigation is the only means to bring credible, impartial scrutiny to the conduct of all parties to this conflict.
This time around, no one can say: we did not know. If human rights truly do prevail over politics in this place, the way forward should be clear. Can anyone credibly suggest that Yemeni civilians will be better protected without an international mechanism?
Civilians facing death and injury in Yemen look to the international community, and to this Council, for leadership. Don’t turn your backs. Not again.