Today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for independent investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws by all sides in the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
Citing the civil war’s devastating impact, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement, “Civilians in Yemen have suffered unbearably over the years from the effects of a number of simultaneous and overlapping armed conflicts. And they continue to suffer, absent any form of accountability and justice, while those responsible for the violations and abuses against them enjoy impunity.” A new report by the UN details many human rights abuses committed in the Yemen conflict, from targeted killings and the use of child soldiers to airstrikes on civilian neighborhoods.
The war has pit Saudi Arabia-led Coalition Forces loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against Houthi rebels and army units loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Since it started in March 2015, the conflict has resulted in nearly 4,000 civilian deaths and more than 6,700 civilian injuries. Nearly three million people have been forced to flee their homes, and at least 7.8 million people in the country of 24 million are suffering from malnutrition.
The rebels and their allies have allegedly killed hundreds of civilians in bombings and rocket, mortar, and sniper attacks. They have planted land mines and have prevented food and other aid from entering civilian areas. The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of causing the majority of civilian deaths and has targeted civilian buildings and infrastructure in its airstrikes. The UN report notes that in several documented coalition strikes, investigators were “unable to identify the presence of possible military objectives,” and in multiple cases when military objectives were found, “serious concerns” remained about whether the civilian deaths and injuries “were not excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage apparently sought,” which is illegal under international humanitarian and human rights laws.
The UN report comes the same week as the second annual Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty in Geneva, which aims to promote transparency in conventional weapons transfers, during which advocates and observers had hoped to spur a debate on the continued arming of Saudi Arabia. (The debate never occurred.) Both the United States and Britain have inked arms deals worth billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the war in Yemen. American and British-supplied weapons have been documented in Yemen following airstrikes that hit civilians, including internationally banned, US-manufactured cluster bombs.
Last week, the New York Times editorial board opined that the United States is “implicit in this carnage” by enabling the coalition through weapons deals. Since Obama took office, the United States and Saudi Arabia have approved weapons sales worth more than $100 billion. The most recent, which the State Department approved earlier this month, is worth $1.15 billion. A week after the deal was announced, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told CNN, “There’s an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen. Why? Well it’s because though the Saudis are actually dropping the bombs from their planes, they couldn’t do it without the United States.”