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New UN report on war crimes in Yemen declares a “pandemic of impunity”

A new report from a group of experts commissioned by the UN highlights new war crimes in Yemen. The experts documented at least 259 child soldiers who were recruited by various sides in the conflict and criticised Britain, Canada, France, Iran and the United States for continuing to support the warring sides, “thereby helping to perpetuate the conflict” through arms deals.

In a first, the experts also called for a an international criminal investigation into the perpetrators of the worst abuses in the Yemen conflict, supported by the UN Security Council and member states. 

The verified human rights violations include arbitrary deprivation of life, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, including sexual violence, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the recruitment and use in hostilities of children, the denial of fair trial rights, violations of fundamental freedoms, and economic, social and cultural rights.

“Yemen has been ravaged in ways that should shock the conscience of humanity,” 

said Melissa Parke, member of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen (GEE) which is behind the report.

“Yemen has now experienced some six years of unremitting armed conflict, with no end inside for the suffering of the millions of people caught in its grip.” 

The Group documented 259 cases of children recruited and used in hostilities by several parties to the conflict. Between June 2015 and February 2020, in all governorates under their control, the Houthi rebels recruited boys as young as 7 years old. The Group verified 11 individual cases and received allegations about the recruitment of a further 163 boys.

 According to the report, they were 

“recruited from schools, poor urban areas and detention centers through indoctrination, financial incentives, abduction and/or peer recruitment with very high rates of  boys being used in combat resulting in their death or injury.” 

The Group also said they received credible reports regarding Houthi recruitment of 34 girls between 13 and 17 years old, for use as spies, recruiters of other children, guards and medics.  Girls from Houthi-affiliated or socioeconomically disadvantaged families, or those in detention, were especially targeted, according to the report.

“Twelve of these girls allegedly survived sexual violence and/or a forced and early marriage.”

In its report, the Group of Experts established, however, that “all parties to the conflict have continued to commit a range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, noting a consistent pattern of harm to civilians that not only occurs in the context of hostilities, but also away from the front lines.”

It stressed that “there are no clean hands in this conflict and the report concluded that violations have been committed by the Government of Yemen, the Houthis, the Southern Transitional Council, as well as members of the Coalition, which is led by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.”

The UN experts warned of a “pandemic of impunity” around the five-year war and Kamel Jendoubi, chairman of the Group of Experts, said:

“Yemen remains a tortured land, with its people ravaged in ways that should shock the conscience of humanity.”

War-ravaged Yemen is divided between the internationally recognised government temporarily based in the south and the Houthi group that ousted it from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. The ongoing conflict has killed more than 100,000 since 2015 and has caused what the UN says is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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