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Yemeni men inspect a destroyed house that was allegedly targeted by Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen, March 8, 2018.  © 2018 Hani Al-Ansi/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

For nearly seven years the people of Yemen have been victims of innumerable war crimes and human rights abuses.

Until last month the fact that the UN Human Rights Council’s Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) was documenting crimes by all parties to the conflict and reporting them to the world attested to a commitment to address widespread impunity for such crimes. It signaled to civilians in Yemen that Member States of the United Nations were not turning a blind eye to their suffering.

But not anymore. Saudi Arabia, backed by the United Arab Emirates, the leaders of a military coalition in the Yemen conflict, lobbied Human Rights Council members to end the GEE’s impartial monitoring and reporting. As a result, Council members narrowly rejected a resolution whose adoption would have renewed the GEE’s mandate, dealing a serious blow to accountability efforts.

As the Netherlands’ ambassador to the UN in Geneva rightly summed it up, by ending the GEE, the Council has “failed the people of Yemen.”

The international community cannot stand by and allow that vote to be the last word on accountability efforts for abuses and war crimes in Yemen.

The undersigned organizations call upon the UN General Assembly to move quickly and establish a new international accountability mechanism for Yemen. The suffering already inflicted on civilians in the country demands this step to address impunity in the ongoing conflict and send a clear warning to perpetrators on all sides that they will be held accountable for war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

All parties to the conflict in Yemen have perpetrated widespread and systematic abuses, including the killing and injuring of tens of thousands of civilians. Since 2015, the Saudi and UAE-led coalition has conducted scores of unlawful airstrikes that have killed and injured civilians and destroyed or damaged homes, hospitals, schools, markets, and other civilian infrastructure, and has allegedly armed and supported local armed groups and militias. Houthi forces have fired mortars, rockets, and other missiles indiscriminately into heavily populated areas, including cities, in Yemen, as well as launching ballistic missiles indiscriminately at populated areas in Saudi Arabia. Warring parties have prevented life-saving humanitarian aid from reaching those who need it. The criminal conduct of all parties to the conflict has claimed many thousands of civilian lives and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The undersigned organizations call upon the UN General Assembly to establish an independent and impartial body that would investigate and publicly report on the most serious violations and abuses of international law committed in Yemen, while also collecting and preserving evidence and preparing files for possible future criminal prosecution. Such a strong mandate is required to ensure not only that the serious crimes under international law committed in Yemen be exposed to the world, but also that potential avenues of criminal accountability may be effectively exploited in the future to address impunity and provide effective redress to victims.

This is an ambitious goal, but the General Assembly has risen to the challenge before, when grave, widespread, and persistent abuses demanded it. For example, in 2016, the General Assembly created the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to collect, preserve, and analyze evidence of the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria. In 2018, the Human Rights Council created a similar mechanism for Myanmar in the wake of the 2017 crimes against humanity and possible genocide committed against Rohingya Muslims. Recognizing the urgent need for accountability in Yemen, dozens of UN Member States have already urged the international community to “actively explore further alternative mechanisms” for monitoring the human rights situation.

UN General Assembly Member States can and should create such an accountability mechanism for Yemen and ensure it is provided with adequate resources to conduct its task. It is the least they can do for those who have endured immeasurable suffering for nearly seven years.

The people of Yemen need justice. And justice begins with investigations and accountability. The time to act is now.

The full list of signatories follows (87 as of February 1, 2022):

  1. Action on Armed Violence (AOAV)
  2. ACAT-France
  3. Acción Solidaria on HIV/aids
  4. Africa Center for Security, Governance & Research
  5. Alakhar For Peace And Development Centre
  6. Alkarama for Human Rights
  7. Al-Amal Developmental Feminism Foundation 
  8. ALQST for Human Rights 
  9. Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School 
  10. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
  11. Amnesty International
  12. Australian Centre for International Justice
  13. Avaaz
  14. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
  15. Bridges for Yemen
  16. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  17. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)
  19. Centre for Social Impact Studies
  20. Changemaker Norway
  21. Civilis Human Rights
  23. Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic
  24. Comisión para los Derechos Humanos del Estado Zulia (Codhez)
  25. Conflict and Environment Observatory
  26. Control Arms 
  27. Daoo Foundation for Rights& Development
  28. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  29. Defense Foundation for Rights and Freedoms
  30. Frontline Human Rights 
  31. Democracy School
  32. Development House
  33. Dhameer Organization for Rights and Liberties
  34. European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
  35. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  36. Femmes des medias pour la justice au Congo
  38. Ffed Rural Development Assocition 
  39. Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict
  40. FundiPau (Fundacio per la Pau)
  41. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  42. Global Legal Action Network
  43. Gulf Centre for Human Rights 
  44. GobiérnaTec (Venezuela) 
  45. Human Life Foundation for Development and Relief 
  46. Human Rights Now
  47. Human Rights Information & Training Centre- HRITC 
  48. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  49. Hearts On Venezuela
  50. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  51. Human Rights Monitor Organization 
  52. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  53. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  54. Innovation for Change Middle East and North Africa
  55. Le Réseau d'action sur les armes légères en Afrique de l'Ouest, section Côte d'Ivoire (Le RASALAO-CI)
  56. Liberia Action Network on Small Arms
  57. MENA Rights Group
  58. Mwatana for Human Rights
  59. “My Rights” – Foundation for Women’s Political Empowerment
  60. Partners Foundation 
  61. PAX
  62. Fadf Foundation for Rural Development 
  63. Peace Track Initiative
  64. People's Federation for National Peace and Development (PEFENAP)
  65. Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo
  66. Réseau d'Action sur les Armes Légères en Afrique de l'Ouest Section Togo (RASALAO-WAANSA-TOGO)
  67. Project Ploughshares
  68. Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  69. Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) 
  70. Saferworld
  71. Salam For Yemen 
  72. SAM Organization Rights and liberty 
  73. Sisters' Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF)
  74. Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society
  75. Truth Justice Memory Center 
  76. Vision GRAM-International
  77. Vredesactie
  78. Watch for Human Rights 
  80. Win Without War
  81. Women for Peace and Democracy Nepal
  82. World Organisation Against Torture
  83. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  84. Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation 
  85. Yemeni Archive
  86. Yemen Policy Center- Germany 
  87. Yemeni Women Union Abyan


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