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UN Rights Experts Urge Countries to Stop Fueling War in Yemen

By Lisa Schlein September 10, 2020

The Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen is calling for an end to the multi-billion-dollar arms trade that it says is fueling the war in Yemen and turned the country into what the U.N. considers the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe.

The group's report will be submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council later this month.

Six years of relentless war have ravaged the country and its people, killing an estimated 100,000 including 12,000 civilians. The group of experts reports millions of people are subjected by all parties to the conflict to a wide range of systematic violations of human rights. It says some may amount to war crimes.

The experts say none of the warring parties have clean hands. They say indiscriminate attacks are being carried out by both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels, inflicting harm on civilians and civilian objects.

Eminent Expert Melissa Parke said all parties are impeding life-saving supplies from reaching civilians, thereby exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen. She said other serious violations by parties to the conflict include the killings of individuals by security, law enforcement officials, and armed groups.

"The arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and torture or other forms of ill treatment of individuals," Parke said. "Gender-based violence, including sexual violence against women and girls, men and boys. The recruitment of children into armed forces and groups and their use in hostilities by the government of Yemen, Houthis and the coalition."

The group said gross violators of human rights operate in a climate of impunity and are never held accountable for their crimes. It said there are no timely or effective remedies for the victims in Yemen.

Eminent Expert Ardi Imsels said the situation should shock the conscience of humanity. Instead, he noted Yemen remains the forgotten conflict. He said the group of experts is concerned about the continued transfer of arms by third countries to the warring parties.

He told VOA the leading arms exporting countries include the United States, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Canada. He said most of the weapons are sold to the coalition forces. On the other hand, he said Iran is the chief supplier of weapons to the Houthis.

"Without the arms you will not have the same level of atrocities taking place on the ground and obviously the impact on the Yemeni people would not be as great," Imsels said. "It is that simple and so we urge all parties to the conflict and indeed all third States that are engaged and have influence over the parties through the arms transfer to stop transferring those arms."

The U.S. Department of State's internal auditors last month said U.S. officials had failed to fully "assess the risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties" in Yemen in approving weapons sales to nations involved in the conflict.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the report's conclusions unfounded and said U.S. actions have prevented the loss of civilian lives.

The eminent group of experts is calling on the Security Council to refer the matter of weapons sales to those supplying fighters in Yemen to the International Criminal Court. It is also urging the Security Council to expand its list of individuals responsible for violations under its sanctions' regime. Currently, only five people are on the list of people subject to Security Council sanctions.

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