57 rights group demand U.N. investigate abuses in Yemen

By Allen Cone   |   Aug. 29, 2017 at 10:57 AM
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Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Human rights groups from around the world are calling on the United Nations to investigate abuses in Yemen.

Human Rights Watch was among 57 groups that submitted a letter Tuesday to members of the U.N. Human Rights Council to create an independent body to look into violations and abuses.

"The victims of abuses in Yemen cannot afford to wait longer for credible investigations into ongoing grave violations and abuses to be undertaken, the letter said. "We therefore call on the Human Rights Council to establish, during its 36th session, an independent international inquiry to investigate alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. The inquiry should be given the mandate to establish the facts and circumstances, and to collect and preserve evidence of, and clarify responsibility for, alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, with a view to ending impunity and providing accountability."

Since March 2015, at least 5,110 civilians have been killed and 8,719 wounded during the conflict, but the U.N. Human Rights Office believes the "overall number is probably much higher."

"Serious violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of international human rights law by parties to the conflict have continued to be committed with impunity," the letter said.

Almost 15 million people are cut off from safe water and access to basic healthcare, and the country "remains on the brink of famine, with an estimated 385,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition," according to UNICEF on Tuesday.

It said the cholera epidemic has been declining since June by one-third because of help from "unsung local heroes" although 550,000 suspected diarrhoea and cholera and more than 2,000 associated deaths recorded since April, UNICEF said.

"What was a steady drumbeat of support for an international inquiry into Yemen abuses has become a crescendo," John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, said in a release. "Human Rights Council member countries should live up to their own mandate, heed these calls, and put in place a body to begin chipping away at the impunity that has been a central facet of Yemen's war."

Sine 2015, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights sought international inquiry into Yemen abuses.

The Human Rights Council in 2015 and 2016 didn't create an international inquiry into Yemen abuses.

"Council member countries have twice capitulated to pressure from the Saudi-led coalition and failed to take a principled stance in the face of repeated war crimes and the world's worst humanitarian crisis," Fisher said. "Governments this September should not cave to political pressure, but instead respond in a way that best helps the Yemeni people."

The Saudi-led coalition since 2015 has "conducted scores of unlawful airstrikes, some of which may amount to war crimes, and Houthi-Saleh forces have fired weapons indiscriminately into populated areas in cities such as Taizz and Aden, that may also amount to war crimes," Human Rights Watch said in a release.

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