Arms from Iran, Western countries prolonging Yemen’s war: UN

A panel of UN investigators found all of Yemen's rival factions have violated international law and in some cases, may have committed war crimes.

al-monitor A picture shows the extensive damages at the National Museum in Yemen's third city of Taez on July 13, 2020.  Photo by AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP via Getty Images.

Sep 9, 2020

All parties to the six-year-long war in Yemen are violating international law, and the countries supplying them with weapons are helping perpetuate the conflict, UN investigators said in a new report Wednesday.

For the third year in a row, a panel of UN-appointed experts found that all parties to the conflict — the government of Yemen, the Iran-aligned Houthis, the Emirati-backed Southern Transitional Council and the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition — have committed a range of human rights violations.

“Yemen remains a tortured land, with its people ravaged in ways that should shock the conscience of humanity,” said Kamel Jendoubi, the panel’s chairman.

The war between the Houthis, who overran the capital in 2014, and a coalition of Arab nations, which intervened the next year to oust the rebels and restore the internationally recognized government, has created what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Thousands of civilians have died, mainly in coalition airstrikes, and the fighting has left roughly 80% of the population in need of some form of aid.

The panel of experts said the parties to the conflict have carried out forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture, including sexual violence — which may amount to war crimes. In addition, the Iran-backed Houthis had planted landmines earlier in the conflict that are still killing and injuring civilians, including a 15-year-old girl who died herding sheep and a 12-year-old boy who died herding cattle.

The report, which covered violations from June 2019 to June 2020, documented four coalition airstrikes or series of airstrikes that investigators said failed to take the necessary precautions to protect civilians. The panel cited “one of the deadliest airstrikes” this year, which left some 50 civilians killed and injured in Al-Hayjah area of Al-Jawf governorate in February.

The report specifically called out the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Iran for “their support of parties to the conflict including through arms transfers, thereby helping to perpetuate the conflict.”

The United States has sold billions in arms to Saudi Arabia and until 2018 assisted Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen with mid-air refueling. Last month, a State Department inspector general concluded that the administration failed to fully evaluate the potential for civilian casualties when selling arms to the kingdom and other regional allies.

The experts called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court and to expand the list of persons targeted with sanctions.

“The international community has a responsibility to put an end to this pandemic of impunity,” said Jendoubi. “After years of documenting the terrible toll of this war, no one can say ‘we did not know what was happening in Yemen.'”

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