UN Rights Body Should Stand with Yemeni People

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Still from a video showing the crater where a Houthi missile struck in Marib city on March 16, 2021, and damage to surrounding vehicles and buildings.
© 2021 Eyad Almsqry

The latest report by the United Nations Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) on Yemen details “over six years of unnecessary suffering” by people in the country. First established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, the group is the only international, impartial, and independent body reporting on rights violations and abuses in Yemen.

Now, despite the gravity of the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Yemen and violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict, the mandate of this essential body is under threat.

Saudi Arabia, a leading party to the conflict in Yemen accused of serious violations including likely war crimes, together with its coalition allies, is engaging in a tireless lobbying campaign to deter states at the Human Rights Council from renewing the GEE’s mandate. Member states bowing to pressure to end the mandate when it is still urgently needed would be a stain on the credibility of the Council and a slap in the face to victims.

Over the years, Human Rights Watch has interviewed relatives of detainees and people who were forcibly disappeared, humanitarian workers witnessing unlawful attacks against camps for displaced people, journalists who survived brutal and inhuman detention conditions, survivors who fled the country after facing restrictions on fundamental freedoms, women survivors of gender-based violence, African migrants who survived vicious abuses, and the list goes on. All ask who can bring them justice. Failing to renew the GEE mandate at this time would be a terrible step in the wrong direction.

Years of violations have shown that parties to Yemen’s conflict have little incentive to halt their abuses in the absence of real accountability. Accountability fundamentally requires impartial and independent documentation of violations by all parties to the conflict. The GEE’s continued scrutiny is essential to support victims, ensure parties to the conflict know the world is watching, and deter further violations and abuse.

The GEE titled their latest report “A nation abandoned: a call to end Yemen’s suffering.” Rather than allowing allow a party to the conflict to evade scrutiny for its own abuses, HRC member states should stand with the people of Yemen by renewing the GEE’s mandate at this critical time.

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