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Human rights abuses in Yemen amount to ‘war crimes’: UN report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People inspect the rubble of a destroyed building which was hit by an airstrike of the Saudi-led coalition in Dhamar, south of Sana’a, September 1, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has detailed serious violations of the international human rights law that could constitute ‘war crimes’ in Yemen.

In an annual and third report presented to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen raised the alarm about the situation of human rights in the war-ravaged country, and revealed scores of violations and abuses of international law and humanitarian regulations since September 2014.

The violations included airstrikes that failed to abide by principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, along with indiscriminate attacks using mortar shelling, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and unlawful killings at checkpoints.

Other abuses included the use of torture, including sexual violence in detention, denial of fair trial rights, the targeting of marginalized communities and the impeding of humanitarian operations.

"Last year, we referred to the situation in Yemen as having reached a 'surreal and absurd' dimension. The situation has not improved. The continuation of violations this year, underlines the complete lack of respect for international law being displayed by parties to the conflict. For too many people in Yemen, there is simply no safe place to escape the ravages of the war," said Kamel Jendoubi, the chairperson of the Group of Experts.

"Our investigations this year have confirmed rampant levels of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes," Jendoubi added in his remarks to the Council.

The Group also denounced in the report on Tuesday the impunity for those violators of international law as well as the lack of accountability that fueled more abuses.

"We are concerned that impunity continues largely unabated for those who perpetrate serious violations. While the Group has seen some progress in terms of investigations conducted by parties and some matters have been referred for criminal prosecution, to date no-one has been held accountable for the violations that the Group has identified. Accountability is key to ensure justice for the people of Yemen," Jendoubi underlined.

The Group of Experts demanded that the UN Security Council refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court, and expand the list of persons subject to Security Council sanctions.

The Group also threw its weight behind the creation of an international criminal justice investigation mechanism, as well as further discussions about the possibility of a specialized court to deal with the international crimes perpetrated during the conflict in Yemen.

Moreover, the Group reiterated its call for foreign parties to stop transferring arms to warring sides in Yemen as such transfers would contribute to the perpetuation of the conflict and subsequently culminate in further violations.

Saudi Arabia launched a devastating campaign against its southern neighbor in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allied states, and with arms support from certain Western countries.

The purported aim was to return to power the Riyadh-backed former regime of Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi and defeat the Houthi Ansarullah movement that took control of state matters after the resignation of the then president and his government.

According to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The United Nations has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

The UN refers to the situation in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than half of hospitals and clinics destroyed or closed.

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