Horrific rights violations, including killings, torture and sexual violence, are being committed with impunity by all sides in Yemen’s brutal conflict, U.N. war crimes investigators warned Tuesday.
They also said that the countries providing weapons and other military support to the various sides in the conflict are complicit in the violations, some of which amount to war crimes.
The experts warned the U.S., Britain, and France – all of which have provided support to the Saudi-led coaltion operating in the country – “may be held responsible for providing aid or assistance for the commission of international law violations if the conditions for complicity are fulfilled.”
Iran, which has backed the Houthi rebels on the opposite side of the war, received the same warning.
“The continued supply of weapons to parties involved in the conflict in Yemen perpetuates the conflict and the suffering of the population,” the experts said.
The investigators, appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017, said they had “identified, where possible, individuals who may be responsible for international crimes” and had provided the confidential list to U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet.
In their second report, which the investigators are due to present to the Human Rights Council on September 10, they detailed how airstrikes, indiscriminate shelling, snipers, and landmines were terrorizing civilians across the country.
They pointed to violations by all sides, including arbitrary killings, torture, recruitment of children as young as 12 as soldiers, rape and other sexual violence.
‘No Clean Hands’
Since 2015, fighting in Yemen has claimed tens of thousands of lives and sparked what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Both the Yemen government and the Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in the conflict in 2015 to support the government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, have refused to cooperate with the experts.
The U.N investigators reported that the Saudi-led coalition “may have conducted airstrikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and may have used starvation as a method of warfare, acts that may amount to war crimes.”
The U.S. has played a leading role in supporting the coalition, providing munitions, targeting information, intelligence, maintenance and logistical support, and until 2018, direct aerial refueling of coalition aircraft over Yemen.
The investigators note that in March, President Donald Trump suspended an order that required the U.S. military and other government agencies to publish civilian casualty data. Trump also vetoed a measure passed by Congress this year demanding the U.S. end its support for the coalition.
“There are no clean hands” in the conflict, one of the experts, Charles Garraway, told reporters.
If confirmed by an independent and competent court, many of the violations identified “may result in individuals being held responsible for war crimes,” they said in a statement.
“The international community must stop turning a blind eye to these violations and the intolerable humanitarian situation,” said Kamel Jendoubi, who heads the so-called Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts.
But they said they had based their findings on more than 600 interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as documentary and open-source material.
Jendoubi denounced the “endemic impunity” for violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict.
“Impartial and independent inquiries must be empowered to hold accountable those who disrespect the rights of the Yemeni people,” he said.
In their report, the experts ask the Human Rights Council to allow them to continue their work to ensure the rights situation in Yemen remains on the agenda, and also to strengthen their mandate by allowing them to collect and preserve evidence of alleged violations in a bid to combat impunity.
Bryan Bowman contributed reporting to this article.