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Yemen Civilians Caught in Vise of Humanitarian and Rights Abuses, UN Experts Say

FILE - The mother of Radhi Awadh, 2, holds him at a malnutrition treatment ward of al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 13, 2021.

United Nations experts report widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law continue at an alarming rate as Yemen enters its seventh year of civil war.

In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, the three-member Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen says it is alarmed at the heavy toll the brutal conflict is taking on the civilian population. The U.N. calls the situation in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Since the conflict erupted in 2014, the U.N. reports more than 18,400 civilians have been killed. It says 80% of the country’s 29 million people need humanitarian assistance and an unprecedented 16 million are going hungry.

The experts say the warring parties have little regard for the needs and safety of the population. Yemeni civilians are being used as fodder by the government, the Houthi rebels and their foreign enablers in their fight for control of the country.

Chair of the Expert Group, Kamel Jendoubi, says civilians are being deprived of their right to affordable medical care. This, he says, is because the warring parties are attacking hospitals and medical units and targeting health personnel with abandon.

“As COVID-19 spreads throughout the country, Yemen is facing an emergency within an emergency, as the remaining half of the health facilities that are operational in Yemen are underequipped to cope with the disease … the children of Yemen continue to endure the misery of a war inflicted by the parties to the conflict, assisted by other states. Their plight has largely been ignored by the international community,” Jendoubi said.

FILE - Fighters ride in pickup trucks as forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government clash with Houthi rebels in al-Jadaan, in Yemen's Marib governorate, Nov. 22, 2020.
FILE - Fighters ride in pickup trucks as forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government clash with Houthi rebels in al-Jadaan, in Yemen's Marib governorate, Nov. 22, 2020.

The experts say nearly 2.3 million young children are expected to suffer acute malnutrition this year. They say 400,000 of them may die if they do not receive urgent treatment.

They express dismay at the shrinking democratic space in the country. Jendoubi noted restrictions on fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and religion are rising. He said civilians are arbitrarily deprived of liberty, subject to enforced disappearances, and intimidation.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict in Yemen have committed serious crimes, breached international human rights law, and caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The situation has further worsened due to the economic breakdown and permanent damage to public infrastructure occasioned by the war,” Jendoubi said.

Yemen’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Ali Majawar, rejects the Group of Experts report as lacking objectivity and distorting the humanitarian situation in the country. He said the report is rife with contradictions and not based on information from reliable sources.

He accused the experts of lacking neutrality, saying the report does not take into account information presented by his government. Nor, he added, does it document Houthi violations against civilians.