Investigators say killings, torture, sexual violence being committed with ‘endemic impunity’ by all sides
Horrific rights violations, including killings, torture and sexual violence, are being committed with impunity by all sides in Yemen’s brutal conflict, U.N. war crimes investigators warned on Tuesday.
The investigators, appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017, said they had “identified, where possible, individuals who may be responsible for international crimes” and had provided the confidential list to U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet. If confirmed by an independent and competent court, many of the violations identified “may result in individuals being held responsible for war crimes,” they said in a statement.
“The international community must stop turning a blind eye to these violations and the intolerable humanitarian situation,” said Kamel Jendoubi, who heads the so-called Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts.
Since 2015, fighting in Yemen has claimed tens of thousands of lives and sparked what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Both the Yemen government and the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in the conflict in 2015 to support the government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels have refused to cooperate with the experts. But they said they had based their findings on more than 600 interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as documentary and open-source material.
In their second report, which the investigators are due to present to the Human Rights Council on Sept. 10, they detailed how airstrikes, indiscriminate shelling, snipers, and landmines were terrorizing civilians across the country. They pointed to violations by all sides, including arbitrary killings, torture, recruitment of children as young as 12 as soldiers, rape and other sexual violence. They also cautioned that “parties may be using starvation as a method of warfare.”
“There are no clean hands” in the conflict, one of the experts, Charles Garraway, told reporters. Jendoubi denounced the “endemic impunity” for violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict. “Impartial and independent inquiries must be empowered to hold accountable those who disrespect the rights of the Yemeni people,” he said.
In their report, the experts ask the Human Rights Council to allow them to continue their work to ensure the rights situation in Yemen remains on the agenda, and also to strengthen their mandate by allowing them to collect and preserve evidence of alleged violations in a bid to combat impunity. They also called on countries to refrain from providing weapons to the different sides in the conflict.
The experts warned the U.S., Britain, France, Iran and others that they “may be held responsible for providing aid or assistance for the commission of international law violations if the conditions for complicity are fulfilled.”