Tuesday, August 28, 2018

War crimes in Yemen

UN human rights experts believe war crimes may have been committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen.  They allege Yemeni government forces, the Saudi-led coalition backing them, and the rebel Houthi movement have made little effort to minimise civilian casualties.They point to attacks on residential areas in which thousands have died. The warring parties are also accused of arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and recruiting children.

"Despite the severity of the situation, we continue to witness the total disregard for the suffering of the people of Yemen. This crisis has reached its peak with no apparent sight of light at the end of the tunnel," Charles Garraway, one of the experts, told a news conference.
The so-called Group of Experts note that coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties, and that they have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and medical facilities.
The report says they "have reasonable grounds to believe that individuals in the government of Yemen and the coalition may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that may amount to war crimes".
They add that the naval and air restrictions imposed by the coalition on rebel-held areas may also constitute a violation of the proportionality rule of international humanitarian law, while the effective closure of Sanaa airport may violate the principle of protection for the sick and wounded.
The experts also expressed concern at the situation in the southern city of Taiz, where the Houthis have been besieging a government-held area for three years. The report says civilians, including women and children, have been hit by shelling and snipers from the Houthis and other parties while in their homes, fetching water at local wells, or on their way to purchase food or seek medical attention. The Houthis are accused of indiscriminately using "weapons with wide area effect" in Taiz and other urban settings, which would constitute a war crime.
The experts also found evidence of widespread arbitrary detention throughout the country by all parties, and ill-treatment and torture of some facilities. Victims and witnesses also described to the experts "persistent and pervasive aggressive behaviour", including sexual violence perpetrated by a pro-government force known as the Security Belt and UAE personnel.
The experts say they also received information indicating all parties had conscripted or enlisted children - some as young as eight years old - and used them to participate actively in hostilities.
The experts say they have identified, where possible, individuals who may be responsible for war crimes and passed a confidential list of their names to the UN high commissioner for human rights.
They also urged the international community to "refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict".
 BBC's Imogen Foulkes says Saudi Arabia did not want this inquiry, and will not like its findings. The coalition accused the UN team in Yemen of bias after it called for expressing condolences to the families of more than 30 civilians, including 22 children, reportedly killed in two air strikes last week.

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