We welcome the continued spotlight from the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council Group of Eminent Experts on the armed conflict in Yemen and thank them for their compelling report. The Experts have documented in detail the terrible toll the conflict has taken on the country’s civilians. We have just heard horrifying accounts of laws-of-war violations and human rights abuses committed with complete impunity by various parties to the conflict.
Human Rights Watch research corroborates the severity and scope of these abuses. Since the conflict escalated in March 2015, the warring parties have committed numerous laws-of-war violations, worsened the country’s humanitarian situation, and failed to hold those responsible for war crimes to account. The United States, United Kingdom, France, and other weapons suppliers have risked complicity in abuses through arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other coalition governments.
Fighting in Yemen has killed and wounded thousands of civilians. Millions suffer from shortages of food and medical care, yet the warring parties continue impeding aid. Across the country, civilians suffer from a lack of basic services, a spiraling economic crisis, and broken governance, health, education, and judicial systems. Furthermore, the Experts have expressed deep concern that parties to the conflict may have also used starvation as a method of warfare.
The Saudi-led coalition has conducted scores of indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes, killing thousands of civilians and hitting critical infrastructure and other civilian structures in violation of the laws of war. Houthi forces have recruited children, used landmines and fired artillery and rockets indiscriminately into cities such as Taizz and Aden, and into Saudi Arabia. Houthi forces, government-affiliated forces, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared scores of people. Houthi forces have held people as hostages. Yemeni government officials in Aden have been responsible for the beating, raping, and torturing of detained migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa, including women and children.
Despite mounting evidence of violations of international law by the warring parties, efforts toward justice have been woefully inadequate. The coalition’s investigations into alleged war crimes in Yemen have lacked credibility and failed to provide redress to victims. Human Rights Watch has also not identified concrete measures the Houthis have taken to investigate their alleged abuses or held anyone to account.
The current state of impunity reinforces the need for the Human Rights Council to ensure that abuses against Yemeni civilians get continued and robust international scrutiny and that steps are taken to lay the foundation for concrete accountability. To this end, the Council should renew and strengthen the Experts’ mandate, and provide them increased resources to preserve evidence, identify perpetrators, and analyze command structures. The Experts should also be invited to publicly report to the Council on a regular basis.
It is imperative that this important work continue. By shining a light on violations by all parties, the Council can help deter further abuses and send a message that perpetrators will face justice. Victims deserve to know that the international community stands with them