Human Rights Watch recommends that the UN Security Council impose asset freezes and travel bans on senior coalition officials, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, unless the coalition fully lifts its blockade on Yemen. The coalition is currently restricting humanitarian aid and commercial imports from reaching civilians living in Houthi-controlled territory. The blockade contributes to the massive humanitarian crisis, causing a fuel shortage and widespread food insecurity. These actions may amount to using starvation as a tool of warfare, a war crime under international law.
The AP reports that Saudi diplomats, lobbying at the UN Human Rights Council against the creation of a commission of inquiry into war crimes and rights violations in Yemen, has threatened economic consequences for states that support an inquiry.
Quartz reports that UN humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick sees little hope for Yemen, anticipating that conditions will get even worse due to a lack of political will to end the war. He anticipates the cholera epidemic will continue to spread, while further outbreaks of meningitis, Dengue fever, and other diseases will accompany January’s rainy season.
Human Rights Watch recently issued a detailed press release concerning violations of international human rights law in Yemen. Both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi forces have obstructed the import and dissemination of critical aid for civilians, including fuel, medicine, food, and critical support infrastructure. According to Human Rights Watch, international humanitarian law (under Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, and customary international humanitarian law for a non-international armed conflict) requires warring parties to allow humanitarian personnel free movement. It also requires any warring party that imposes a blockade to do so in a manner that balances the anticipated military advantage with the potential harm to civilians. Human Rights Watch has identified numerous instances in which both parties to the conflict in Yemen have violated international humanitarian law, with devastating consequences for the civilian population.
The Yemen Peace Project (YPP) and 56 other NGOs delivered a letter today to the members of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) calling on the Council to create an independent, international inquiry into human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. Yemen is currently facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 17 million Yemenis facing food insecurity, thousands of Yemenis killed by violence, and over three million displaced by conflict. All sides to the conflict exacerbate the humanitarian crisis by indiscriminately targeting civilians and vital civilian infrastructure, blocking the distribution of humanitarian aid, and committing other human rights abuses such as recruiting child soldiers and arbitrarily detaining journalists and members of civil society. The UNHRC must establish an independent, international inquiry into these abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in order to establish accountability and deliver justice to the victims of the conflict.
On March 16th, 2017, more than 38 civilians were killed in a U.S. airstrike shortly before the night prayer at a mosque in al-Jinah area in Aleppo, Syria. While the airstrike was conducted to hit an Al-Qaeda meeting, the U.S. Central Command approved the strike without having a correct estimation of possible civilian casualties or accurate intelligence about the nature of the to-be-targeted building. Brigadier General Bontrager described the airstrike in a recent press briefing as “frustrating” and denied the Pentagon had any prior knowledge that the targeted building had a religious purpose.