Created last year by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen analyzed violations and abuses of international human rights law, humanitarian law and criminal law, making more than a dozen visits to the war-torn country and neighboring States.
“The Group of Eminent Experts has reasonable grounds to believe that the Governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are responsible for human rights violations,” panel member Charles Garraway told reporters in Geneva Tuesday.
Turning to the Houthi opposition forces, which he also described as “de facto authorities”, Garraway added that the UN panel also has “reasonable grounds to believe, that the de facto authorities are responsible, in the areas over which they exercise effective control, for human rights violations”.
The experts’ findings cover the situation in Yemen from September 2014 to June 2018.
The roots of the conflict date back to uprisings in 2011, but fighting escalated in March 2015, when an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened militarily at the request of Yemen’s President against “Houthi-Saleh” opposition forces – a reference to the former Yemeni President, Ali Abdallah Saleh.
In recent years, the conflict has been marked by repeated airstrikes on public spaces including market places, funerals, civilian boats, detention facilities and hospitals.
Just last week, an airstrike in opposition-held Hudaydah governorate, in western Yemen, killed at least 26 children and four women.
The report notes that coalition airstrikes have caused most direct civilian casualties, giving the UN panel “reasonable grounds” to believe that the attacks overstepped key war crimes thresholds.
“Individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and/or proportions, which may amount to war crimes,” Garraway said. He said a confidential list of names would be handed over to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), pending further investigations.
“More information is needed on some incidents documented by the Group of Experts to establish responsibility,” the UN panel said in a statement, before calling on the Human Rights Council to renew its mandate when it meets next month.
According to UN human rights office (OHCHR), since March 2015 up to 23 August 2018, 6,660 civilians were killed and 10,563 injured; however, the real figures are likely to be significantly higher.
According to the UN panel, more than 22 million people remain in need inside Yemen; almost all of them are women and children.
Even before the conflict, Yemen was one of the poorest countries on earth, importing almost all of its food, fuel and medicines.