SANAA, Feb. 19 (Saba) – KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, regretted that, despite international appeals and the unwavering efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, peace was yet to come to Yemen, and the tragic suffering of the people was continuing with pervasive human rights violations.
Ms. Gilmore presented a report containing the findings and conclusions of the Group of Eminent Experts established by the Council, which found unequivocally that individuals in the Government of Yemen, from among the coalition members, including Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates, and from the de facto authorities, had committed acts that subject to determination by a competent court may have amounted to international crimes.
The report notes that coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties, the airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.
Based on the incidents they examined, the Group of Experts have reasonable grounds to believe that individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that may amount to war crimes.
There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call on them to priorities human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen.
Investigations by the Group of Experts confirm widespread arbitrary detention throughout the country, and ill-treatment and torture in some facilities, in most cases, detainees were not informed of the reasons for their arrest, were not charged, were denied access to lawyers or a judge and were held incommunicado for prolonged or indefinite periods. Some remain missing.
Human rights defenders and journalists have faced relentless harassment, threats and smear campaigns by Hadi Government , coalition forces, including those of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and by the de facto authorities in blatant disregard of human rights law, the de facto authorities have also targeted Baha’is.
Victims and witnesses described to the Group of Experts persistent and pervasive aggressive behavior, including sexual violence perpetrated by the Security Belt Forces and United Arab Emirates personnel, examples include rape, of men and women, and sexual violence against displaced persons, migrants and other vulnerable groups.
The Group of Experts also found that many parties fighting in Ta’izz have been responsible for civilian casualties.
“I urge all parties to take the necessary measures to remove disproportionate restrictions on the safe and expeditious entry into Yemen of humanitarian supplies and other goods indispensable to the civilian population, and the movement of persons including through Sana’a International Airport in compliance with international humanitarian law,” said Mr Jendoubi.
Presenting the High Commissioner’s report on Yemen, Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, regretted that despite international appeals and the unwavering efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, peace was yet to come to Yemen.
The suffering of the Yemeni people was intensified by blockades and restrictions on imports and humanitarian assistance, some 22 million Yemenis were in need of assistance, while eight million were at risk of famine, Ms. Gilmore underlined.
Kamel Jendoubi, Chairperson of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, said the Experts had sought to investigate violations perpetrated by parties to the conflict in Yemen and had faced immense challenges when it came to gathering information for security and logistical reasons.
The Hadi government had targeted civilians and had allegedly used a wide range of weapons forbidden in civilian areas, various parties to the conflict had hampered civilian access to humanitarian aid and food.
The Group of Experts expressed concern about widespread arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture in detention centres, and reports of secret detention centers, new waves of displacement, poverty and sexual violence were on the rise with no justice or protection measures in place, Mr. Jendoubi noted.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers called on the Human Rights Council to respond meaningfully to the dire situation in Yemen Many countries raised concern that the report ignored violations committed by Hadi government .
Time and resources available to the Group of Eminent Experts were inadequate and there was insufficient information so the report was not exhaustive, conclusive or balanced, speakers welcomed the efforts of Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in bringing all parties of the conflict to the negotiation table.
According to United Nations Human Rights Office, since March 2015 up to 23 August 2018, 6,660 civilians were killed and 10,563 injured; however, the real figures are likely to be significantly higher. The coalition has imposed severe naval and air restrictions in Yemen, to varying degrees, since March 2015. There are reasonable grounds to believe that these restrictions imposed by the coalition constitute a violation of the proportionality rule of international humanitarian law. Moreover, the effective closure of Sana’a airport is a violation of international humanitarian law protection for the sick and wounded. Such acts, together with the requisite intent, may amount to international crimes.
Ms. Gilmore expressed concern that the suffering of the Yemeni people had further intensified due to blockades and restrictions on imports and humanitarian assistance, some 22 million Yemenis were in need of assistance, while eight million were at risk of famine.
The Experts had conducted nine field visits to Yemen in addition to several visits to neighboring and other countries, they had visited sites and met with witnesses, families of victims, and had considered a wide range of documentation, including videos, photos and analysis of satellite imagery, they had vetted all the information using a strict methodology developed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, they had also taken into account various views and opinions, including those of human rights workers in the field. Security and logistical challenges had prevented the gathering of some information.
The Group of Experts had identified a number of named individuals who may be responsible for the perpetration of such crimes, and that confidential list was now with the Office of the High Commissioner. Ms. Gilmore highlighted the contributions of the Eminent Experts as significant to efforts to ensure that accountability mechanisms were established for the victims of the conflict in Yemen.
The Experts had faced immense challenges when it came to the security and safety of victims and sources of information. For particular periods of the conflict, they relied on information gathered and verified by the Human Rights Office, and they corroborated incidents investigated by other United Nations entities and verified findings, based on a solid analysis by experts, the Group reiterated that it was deeply concerned by air raid attacks against civilians, which were contrary to the principles of distinction, effectiveness and proportionality.
The Deputy High Commissioner also warned the Council that, so long as the conflict continued, there must be independent and international investigations into all allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and war crimes.
In its resolution 36/31, the Human Rights Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a group of eminent international and regional experts on Yemen to monitor and report on the situation of human rights.
As part of their investigations, the Group of Experts visited Aden, Sana’a, Sa’dah and Hudaydah but due to security constraints, they were unable to visit all the affected governorates, notably Taiz.
Their report urges the Human Rights council to ensure that the situation of human rights in Yemen remains on the Council’s agenda by renewing the mandate of the Group of Experts.
Written by Mona Zaid