(Paris, November 8, 2017) – President Emmanuel Macron of France should take the opportunity of his first official visit to the United Arab Emirates on November 8, 2017, to make the voice of Yemeni civilians heard, six human rights and humanitarian organizations said today. President Macron, accompanied by the French ministers of foreign affairs and culture, visited the United Arab Emirates for the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
For about 1,000 days, the United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, have been carrying out an air and ground campaign in Yemen to regain control of the capital, Sanaa, and most of the northern part of the country. The area is under the control of the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdallah Saleh. And for those 1,000 days, Yemeni civilians have been suffering from an unprecedented man-made humanitarian catastrophe, which is a direct consequence of the hidden conflict.
Yemen, which was already the poorest Arab country before the conflict, now has the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Since March 2015, the war has killed at least 5,000 civilians, a third of them children, and has injured 8,500, according to the UN human rights office. More than 20 million Yemenis, 80 percent of the population, are dependent on humanitarian aid. Over the last few months, hundreds of thousands of people have suffered from an unprecedent cholera outbreak, exacerbated by the collapse of sanitation and health services.
For almost three years, all parties to the conflict have repeatedly hindered land, air and sea access for Yemenis, and for humanitarian aid and personnel. The already critical situation will only worsen after the decision by the Saudi-led coalition to completely shut down the country's ports and airports, in response to a ballistic missile fired on November 4 from Yemen toward Saudi territory.
The total closure -- even temporary -- of Yemen's borders, which amounts to a de facto blockade, can only aggravate the suffering of civilians by stopping the importation of consumer goods, the delivery of aid and the transportation of humanitarian workers. Further restrictions on aid to Yemen would also be likely to violate international law on humanitarian access.
In October, the coalition led by Saudi Arabia with the active participation of the United Arab Emirates was included to the annual UN “list of shame” for violations against children. "In Yemen, the coalition's actions objectively led to (...) 683 child casualties," the UN secretary general’s statement said.
International human rights and humanitarian law violations in Yemen have been widespread, leading the UN Human Rights Council to agree, in September, to set up a group of international and regional experts to examine abuses by all parties to the conflict in Yemen.
France, which seems more worried about pursuing its arms deals with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, has contributed, through its silence, to making the Yemeni war invisible. These arms transfers and the human rights violations that stem from them need to stop immediately.
Emmanuel Macron has the opportunity to make things right. While in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, he should call on his Emirati counterparts to respect their obligations under international law, guarantee unhindered humanitarian access, and engage in an inclusive political solution for Yemen.
- Action contre la Faim
- Amnesty International
- Handicap International
- Human Rights Watch
- Médecins du Monde
- Première Urgence Internationale