The international community must use the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council to establish an investigation into violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights abuses committed by all sides in Yemen, said Amnesty International six months after the country’s descent into a bloody conflict.
The organization is urging the creation of a UN Commission of Inquiry into violations and abuses committed by all parties to the Yemen conflict, at the current Human Rights Council session in Geneva which concludes on October 2.
More than 2,100 civilians, including at least 400 children, have been killed in the conflict. Across the country, a desperate humanitarian crisis is escalating and more than 1.4 million people have been displaced from their homes.
“In the six months since the Saudi Arabia-led coalition began their campaign in Yemen, all sides have displayed a callous disregard for civilian life,” said James Lynch, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“With no end to this deadly conflict in sight and a spiraling humanitarian crisis, civilian suffering is at an all-time high. The international community must seize this moment to establish a credible, international inquiry that offers hope for accountability and justice for victims of serious violations and abuses in Yemen.”
Saudi Arabia along with other members of the military coalition fighting in Yemen and the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi are attempting to block the establishment of a UN investigation into the conflict by the Human Rights Council.
“It is time for the international community to stop turning its back on the victims of the crisis unfolding in Yemen and to take measures that will help end impunity, and send a clear message that perpetrators will be held to account. The first step towards that goal should be a thorough, impartial and independent investigation,” said Lynch.
The vast majority of civilian deaths and injuries have been caused by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition which is backed by the USA and the UK. Amnesty International has documented coalition airstrikes, purportedly against the Huthi armed group, but which have caused civilian deaths as well as destroyed homes and other civilian objects including schools and mosques. Key infrastructure such as bridges and roads have also been destroyed by airstrikes, hampering the delivery of humanitarian supplies.
Coalition forces have also used banned cluster munitions, which are indiscriminate by nature, and have been found to be produced or designed in the USA.
“Instead of providing logistical and military assistance to coalition forces that have committed serious violations, these influential members of the international community should seek to hold perpetrators of such violations to account,” said Lynch. “Any countries supplying arms to any party of the conflict must not authorize any transfer where there is an overriding risk the arms would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
In ground fighting, grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law have also been committed by the Huthi armed group and their opponents. Both sides have endangered civilians by carrying out indiscriminate attacks and launching attacks in residential areas, including indiscriminate shelling of towns and cities in southern Saudi Arabia by the Huthis.
The Huthi armed group has also launched a crackdown in areas under its control, raiding and shutting down several NGOs and threatening their staff. They have also carried out dozens of arbitrary arrests, detentions and abductions of activists, journalists and others perceived as critics.