Human rights and international humanitarian law violations in Yemen

Man shows the clothes of a child, victim of the armed conflict in Yemen Man shows the clothes of a child, victim of the armed conflict in Yemen © World in War

This article is a brief presentation of the situation of human rights in Yemen based on the report of OHCHR Eminent Experts

The Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts is a group mandated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to monitor and report the situation of human rights in Yemen, as well as carrying out investigations into all alleged violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) committed since September 2014. In its latest report, the Group of Eminent Experts documented violations occurred between July 2019 and June 2020.

In carrying out their investigation, the Group of Eminent Experts conducted 400 interviews with victims, witnesses and other individuals and reviewed a significant number of documents, open-source materials and additional secondary sources. Since the conflict started, approximately 112,000 people have died as a direct result of hostilities, of whom around 12,000 were civilians. The OHCHR has documented at least 7,825 civilians killed (including 2,138 children and 933 women) between March 2015 and June 2020; this figure does not include the many thousands of people who have died as a result of the worsening socio-economic, health and humanitarian conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that over 20 million people are food insecure, with malnutrition disproportionately affecting marginalised and at-risk groups. Over 3.5 million internally displaced persons in Yemen, most of them women and children, face acute vulnerabilities.

Several violations of International Human Rights Law and IHL are reported, inter alia: attacks affecting civilians or civilian objects, arbitrary deprivation of life, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, gender-based violence, child recruitment and use in hostilities and other related violations, discrimination against minorities, and violations related to administration of justice. Regarding attacks affecting civilians or civilian objects, the Group of Eminent Experts found out several violations of IHL such as indiscriminate attacks on hospitals, the use of landmines and rockets and mortars in populated areas which caused significant civilian casualties and damage to civilian buildings.  

Also the Group of Eminent Experts has recorded several failures in taking measures necessary to protect civilians while finding in coalition airstrikes  a consistent pattern of harm to civilians. At least four airstrikes involving similar failures to take all measures necessary to protect civilians had been verified with at least more than 200 civilians killed. It expressed  concern on the continued practice of parties of using indirect-fire weapon systems with wide-area impact such as rockets and mortars, especially in the populated areas. During the investigation, the Group of Eminent Experts also verified six incidents revealing a pattern of unlawful uses of lethal force by security or law enforcement actors. The parties of the conflict also contributed to the worsening humanitarian situation: the Experts have documented the disproportionate effects on the civilian population of the de facto blockade and access restrictions, including the closure of Sana’a airport imposed by the coalition and the Government and the use of landmines which exacerbated food insecurity and further complicated the delivery of  humanitarian relief supplies and access to health.

Further, The Group of Eminent Experts found at least 29 cases of enforced disappearance by armed groups. The parties also continued to arbitrarily arrest and detain people in violation of Yemeni and/or International Law. Those in detentions are frequently subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment such as sexual violence .

Women, girls, men, and boys remain at serious risk of all forms of gender-based violence, including sexual violence. Following earlier investigations, the Group of Eminent Experts verified that the Security Belt Forces raped five women and four girls and subjected 12 boys and three men to forced nudity. One survivor also recounted being raped on multiple occasions over 13 days by a total of 28 soldiers. The Group of Eminent Experts also documented 259 cases -and verified 16 individual cases- of children recruited and used in hostilities by several parties to the conflict. Poverty and hunger are the most powerful “push factors” which render children vulnerable to recruitment. 

The Group of Eminent Experts also expressed concern on the situation of minorities which was exacerbated by the conflict itself and the dire economic situation. Religious minorities and social minorities, as well as internally displaced persons, migrants and refugees face ongoing discrimination and are at-high risk of exploitation and physical abuse. 

To ensure justice for all victims of violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the experts recommend to the parties to the conflict to take all measures to protect civilians. Other states and regional and international organisations are encouraged to support all efforts for sustainable and inclusive peace and provide funding of humanitarian aid for human rights fulfillment in Yemen; further, the Group urges OHCHR and the Security Council to integrate the human rights dimensions of the conflict into their agendas.

 

To know more, please read:

https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/GEE-Yemen/2020-09-09-report.pdf

 

Author: Mery Ana Farida

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