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UN Says Yemen’s Warring Parties Must Face Justice

FILE - Workers salvage oil canisters from the wreckage of a vehicle oil store hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, July 2, 2020.
FILE - Workers salvage oil canisters from the wreckage of a vehicle oil store hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, July 2, 2020.

A group of Eminent Experts on Yemen accuses Yemen’s warring parties of widespread violations, some amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are calling for an end to impunity and for perpetrators of these crimes to be brought to justice. The report has been submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.

For the second consecutive year, the Yemeni government and its Saudi-led coalition partners have refused to grant the Group of Experts entry into their countries. Nevertheless, the experts managed to gather a ream of evidence from more than 400 witnesses, victims and other sources through remote and secure channels.

What is eminently clear from their 152-page report is that no one in Yemen is safe; that no one has clean hands in this blood-soaked country; that direct warfare, along with hunger and disease, have claimed more than 100,000 civilian lives over the past six years.

Chair of the Group of Eminent Experts, Kamel Jendoubi, says all warring parties are guilty of committing alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Airstrikes are being carried out by coalition forces without proper regard to the principles of distinction, proportionality and/or precaution…Both the Houthis and the Coalition forces are continuing to deploy indirect fire weapons, such as mortars and rockets, including in heavily populated areas," Jendoubi said, speaking through an interpreter. "These indiscriminate attacks are killing and wounding civilians and damaging critical infrastructure, such as health facilities.”

The report documents widespread, systematic violations including arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture, gender-based and sexual violence. It notes dissidents, human rights defenders and journalists are at particular risk. It finds boys and girls as young as seven are recruited into armed forces.

Jendoubi says the Group of Experts has identified potential perpetrators of crimes that have been committed and has given a confidential list of names to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be used in future prosecutions.

“The Group is concerned that impunity continues largely unabated for those who perpetrate serious violations…To date no one has been held accountable for the violations that we have identified," Jendoubi said. "We call upon the international community to take a more active role in Yemen and call upon the Security Council to refer the situation in Yemen to the ICC (International Criminal Court).”

Yemen’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Mohamed Al-Foqumi, dismisses the Expert Group’s call for international involvement in his country’s affairs.

He says the Independent Yemeni National Commission of Inquiry is doing a professional job in investigating abuse and is moving to set up special courts for human rights violations.

He says the Experts’ report is based on misleading information, lacks objectivity, impartiality and credibility and tells the council there is no need to extend the group’s mandate.