Yemen: In third report, Group of Eminent Experts says all parties have committed violations and calls on UN member states to stop supplying arms
Update: Yemen: On 06 October 2020, at the HRC's 45th session, a majority of 22 members supported a resolution renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent International & Regional Experts (GEE) by one year, requesting the GEE to provide an oral update at the HRC's 46th session and a report at the HRC's 48th session, and to transmit the report to the UN General Assembly. The GEE's new mandate includes collecting, preserving and analysing information on international crimes and recommending approaches for accountability and redress.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the release of the third report by the United Nations Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen (GEE) and once again calls for UN member states and the international community to fully support its mandate and findings.
On 09 September 2020, the GEE released its third report, entitled "Yemen: A Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land", which covers the period from July 2019 to June 2020. The official version will be presented on 29 September 2020 during the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) .
The GEE was established three years ago by the HRC to investigate human rights abuses and violations in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, including violations committed by coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia, which engaged in the conflict starting in 2015. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “the GEE stressed that there are no clean hands in the conflict.”
According to the GEE’s report, there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that all sides are responsible for human rights violations, including the Yemeni government, the Houthis, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Southern Transitional Council (STC). The report cites the deliberate nature of the humanitarian crisis, noting, “Rather than being the incidental result of hostilities, the continuous deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Yemen is directly attributable to the conduct of the parties to the conflict.”
The GEE investigated arbitrary deprivation of life and murder of civilians; enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and other forms of ill-treatment; torture, including sexual violence, and other violations which were committed by parties to the conflict. “In many cases, these violations are being committed against persons who are perceived as opposed to a particular party to the conflict, including human rights defenders and journalists,” says the GEE.
The report also notes violations of humanitarian law, including airstrikes against civilians by Saudi Arabia, child recruitment and abuse, and impeding humanitarian relief supplies, for which the GEE singles out the Houthis.
In a section on violations related to the administration of justice, the GEE writes, “The administration of justice is crucial for the safeguarding and protection of human rights.” The GEE focused on “the operation of the Specialised Criminal Courts (SCC), violations of fair trial rights, and attacks on the judiciary.” The report finds that “the SCC, particularly in Sana’a, is being used as an instrument to suppress dissent,” among other uses. For example, the GEE expresses concern about the ten journalists who were convicted on 11 April 2020 of national security offences, four of whom were sentenced to death. “This case exemplifies the way in which journalists have been subjected to a pattern of violations in order to silence their work,” says the GEE, which includes recommendations for all parties to “respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression and belief, and other fundamental rights and freedoms;” and to “ensure the immediate release of all persons who have been arbitrarily detained and, where possible, detainees at risk of contracting COVID-19.”
The GEE also repeated its assertion that states including Canada, France, Iran, the United Kingdom and the United States helped extend the conflict by continuing to supply weapons to various parties, and called on those states to stop fueling the conflict.
GCHR supports the calls by the GEE and civil society organisations for the UN HRC to “ensure that the situation of human rights in Yemen remains on its agenda” by renewing the GEE’s mandate and providing resources. The GCHR also supports the GEE in its call on the UN Security Council to “integrate the human rights dimensions of the conflict in Yemen more fully into its agenda; and ensure there is no impunity for the most serious crimes by, inter alia, referring the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court, and expanding the list of persons subject to Security Council sanctions.”
Photo credit: United Nations