For the third consecutive year, the High Commissioner has appealed to this Council to do what it should have done long ago: create the independent, international inquiry into violations and abuses in Yemen that is so desperately needed.
The arguments in favour of an international inquiry are the same as they were last year, and the year before. The only difference is that the civilian death toll is higher, the humanitarian catastrophe worse.
Since March 2015, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has bombed Yemeni homes, markets, schools, and hospitals. Opposing Houthi-Saleh forces have shelled populated areas of cities and laid landmines that will harm civilians for years to come. Both sides have carried out arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced disappearances.
At least seven million people are on the brink of famine and several hundred thousand suffering from cholera. Yet, both sides are impeding the delivery of humanitarian aid. President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, has said that the humanitarian crisis will only worsen unless parties to the conflict change their behavior to respect the laws of war.
Violations and abuses have continued, even during the current session of the Council. Just last week, Houthi-Saleh shelling killed three children in Yemen’s third largest city, two of whom were playing football in the street, and gravely wounded nine more. A coalition airstrike killed 12 civilians, including five children, as they travelled home after seeking medical treatment. It is clear that the existing national processes are not sufficient to stem the abuse.
Things will not change unless something different is tried. Yet the Arab Group text merely offers more of the same. Yemeni civilians do not need more of the same. They need to know that someone’s in their corner, that UN member states actually care whether they live or die.
In recent days, it has come to light that Saudi Arabia has been threatening states with economic and political consequences if they support the initiative to create an international inquiry. These are not the actions of a state that is seriously committed to stemming the abuses. These are the actions of a state that will do everything in its power to bully and buy its way out of accountability. The Council cannot allow that to happen. Not this time. The UK, US and France, all arms suppliers to the Saudi-led coalition, are in the Core Group in support of a COI on Syria, yet have been hypocritically silent when it comes to supporting a COI in Yemen.
States that stand up this week and support the resolution calling for an international inquiry will be standing with Yemeni civilians who deserve to have the international community scrutinize the conduct of those who have destroyed their families, homes and livelihoods. Do not fail them.