UN rights chief urges international probe of Yemen violations

August 25, 2016 12:53 pm
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 A fighter loyal to Yemen's exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fires from a tank during clashes with Shiite Huthi rebels west of the city of Taez on March 21, 2016/AFP-File

A fighter loyal to Yemen’s exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fires from a tank during clashes with Shiite Huthi rebels west of the city of Taez on March 21, 2016/AFP-File

, GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug 25 – The United Nations called on Thursday for the creation of an independent international body to investigate an array of serious violations in war-torn Yemen.

In a new report, the UN laid out a long line of allegations of grave human rights abuses by all sides in Yemen’s bloody conflict, which has left nearly 4,000 civilians dead.

Overview
  • The report listed numerous attacks on residential areas, market places, hospitals and schools, pointing out that in several cases investigators were "unable to identify the presence of possible military objectives."
  • It also condemned targeted killings including of at least six journalists the use of cluster bombs, landmines, and sniper attacks, and the rampant use of child soldiers.

“Civilians in Yemen have suffered unbearably over the years from the effects of a number of simultaneous and overlapping armed conflicts,” UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

“And they continue to suffer, absent any form of accountability and justice, while those responsible for the violations and abuses against them enjoy impunity,” he said.

“Such a manifestly protracted unjust situation must no longer be tolerated by the international community,” he insisted, demanding the creation of “an international, independent investigative body”.

The report listed numerous attacks on residential areas, market places, hospitals and schools, pointing out that in several cases investigators were “unable to identify the presence of possible military objectives.”

It also condemned targeted killings including of at least six journalists the use of cluster bombs, landmines, and sniper attacks, and the rampant use of child soldiers.

As of August 23, an estimated 3,799 civilians had been killed and 6,711 injured since a Saudi-led Arab coalition began air raids in March last year in support Yemen’s internationally recognised government and President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The government is battling Iran-backed Huthi rebels and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who have seized control of large parts of the impoverished country since 2014 and still control swathes of territory including the capital Sanaa.

The World Health Organization says more than 6,600 people have died in all, counting combattants, while more than 33,000 have been injured.

Child soldiers

Air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition were suspected of causing around half of all civilian deaths, while attacks by groups affiliated with the rebels were blamed for around a quarter of the deaths, Thursday’s report said.

Islamic State group jihadists, Al-Qaeda and a range of other actors accounted for the remainder, it said.

Millions of people across the country lack food, clean water and adequate healthcare.

The UN rights office warned Thursday that some 7.6 million people, including three million women and children, were suffering from malnutrition, while at least three million had fled their homes.

At least 559 children were recruited to man checkpoints or to fight in the country between July 2015 and May 2016, it added.

Most of the recruitment allegedly took place in and around Sanaa, mainly by the popular committees affiliated with the Huthi rebels, the report said.

At least 620 children have been killed and 758 maimed since July last year.

In the face of such horrors, Yemen’s government set up a national commission of inquiry last September, but the UN said it had been unable to conduct an effective investigation.

Noting “the gravity of allegations” and “the challenges faced by the national commission of inquiry”, the report urged the creation of “an international, independent investigative body to carry out comprehensive investigations.”

“The international community … has a legal and moral duty to take urgent steps to alleviate the appalling levels of human despair,” the UN rights office said.

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