In its third report , officially presented to the Human Rights Council today, the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen detailed scores of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. These include airstrikes that fail to abide by principles of distinction, proportionality and/or precaution, indiscriminate attacks using mortar shelling, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and unlawful killings at checkpoints. Other violations include 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, having a devastating effect of the ordinary lives of those in Yemen. The Group also denounced the endemic impunity for those violations that fuels more abuses.
“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.
The report titled ‘Yemen: A Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land’ was released on 9 September 2020, and covers the period from July 2019 to June 2020. The report presented findings of the Group’s investigation in a number of emblematic cases, focusing on events since July 2019. The Group also examined incidents that occurred as early as the beginning of the conflict in 2014, to shed light on certain categories of violations. In this report, the Group of Experts has established that all parties to the conflict have continued to commit a range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
“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 of Experts stressed that there are no clean hands in this conflict. The responsibility for violations rests with all parties to the conflict. In its findings, the report concluded that violations have been committed by the Government of Yemen, the Houthis, the Southern Transitional Council, as well as members of the Coalition, in particular Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
“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,” added Jendoubi.
The Group of Experts called upon the Security Council to refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court, and to expand the list of persons subject to Security Council sanctions. The Group also expressed support for 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 committed during the conflict in Yemen.
The Group reiterated its call for third states to stop transferring arms to parties to the conflict given the role of such transfers in perpetuating the conflict and potentially contributing to violations.
Over the past weeks the Group of Experts conducted meetings with relevant international and local actors, including key Yemeni NGOs to present the findings of the third report and discuss the needed steps. Besides this official report, the Group of Experts also released a Conference Room Paper, which is a longer document detailing its investigations and findings.
About the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen (Group of Experts)
In its resolution 36/31 (2017), the Human Rights Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a group of eminent international and regional experts on Yemen to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in the country. The Group of Eminent Experts (Group of Experts) was mandated to carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and other appropriate and applicable fields of international law committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014, including the possible gender dimensions of such violations. The mandate of the Group of Experts also includes its duty to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses and, where possible, to identify those responsible.
The Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the Group of Experts in its resolutions 39/16 (2018), and 42/2 (2019).
The current members of the Group of Experts are:
Mr.Kamel Jendoubi (Tunisia) – Chairperson
Ms. Melissa Parke (Australia)
Mr. Ardi Imseis (Canada)