U.N. human rights experts say the international community is abandoning millions of Yemeni civilians to a life of intolerable suffering and desperation as Yemen enters its seventh year of civil war with no end in sight. The statement comes as the three-member UN Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen presents its findings ahead of a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council next week.
The United Nations estimates more than 1,200 civilians have been killed or injured in Yemen this year. This is on top of the more than 20,000 civilians who have been killed or injured since the war began in 2015.
Additionally, the U.N. humanitarian office reports about 233,000 people have died of causes related to hunger, disease, lack of health care, a collapsed economy, and other indirect causes.
Eminent expert Ardi Imsels says civilians continue to pay the highest price in this conflict, as they sink deeper into hunger, poverty, suffering and despair.
"This year, the group of Eminent Experts continues to have reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict have committed serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, some of which may amount to war crimes," said Imsels. "As we have said before, there are no clean hands in this conflict.”
The group accuses the government of Yemen, supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of multiple atrocities. The report documents numerous airstrikes in populated areas by the Saudi-led coalition and indiscriminate shelling attacks by the Houthis.
The range of violations committed by all parties include arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and other forms of gender-based sexual violence. In view of the enormous suffering of the Yemeni people, Eminent Expert Melissa Parke says the situation in Yemen should be at the top of the international agenda.
"We are seeing a generation of children caused irreparable harm, forced to be child soldiers, denied their fundamental rights to food and education, to health care," said Parke. "Yemen was already patriarchal before the war, but the situation for women has only become worse with the conflict, and the associated displacement, extreme poverty and indiscriminate violence.”
The group says impunity for these crimes must end. Perpetrators must be held accountable and brought to justice. The Eminent Experts are calling on states to stop all arms transfers to the parties, which they say are driving the conflict.
The report contains a so-called non-exhaustive list of countries that are providing weapons to Yemen’s warring parties. They include Canada, France, Iran, Britain, and the United States.