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Rubble left after a Saudi-led airstrike
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Y. Arhab

UN rights chief wants Yemen probe

August 25, 2016

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein says he wants an independent body to probe alleged grave human rights violations in the country. He says the suffering of Yemenis amid a civil war is "unbearable."


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Thursday called for an independent international probe into an array of alleged serious violations in war-torn Yemen, saying that perpetrators were going unpunished.

Yemeni civilians were suffering "unbearably" in the absence of "any form of accountability and justice, while those responsible for the violations and abuses against them enjoy impunity," he said in a statement.

"Such a manifestly, protractedly unjust situation must no longer be tolerated by the international community," the statement said, calling for the creation of "an international, independent investigative body to carry out comprehensive investigations."

According to UN figures, some 3,800 civilians have been killed and 6,711 injured in fighting in Yemen between March 2015 and 23 August 2016.

Mourners in Sanaa after a Saudi-led airstrike
The UN says Saudi-led airstrikes have killed many civiliansImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Y. Arhab

Wide range of abuses

In a new report, the UN lists a large number of alleged grave human rights abuses by all sides in the conflict.

It said airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen were suspected of causing more than half of the civilian deaths in the time period mentioned, and that the coalition had committed other violations that might contravene international law.

Houthi rebels and allied forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in their turn, had carried out rocket and mortar attacks on residential areas and used landmines, it said in the report.

In several cases, it said, investigators had been "unable to identify the presence of possible military objectives" of attacks on residential areas, market places, hospitals and schools.

Possible collapse

The report said that there was a strong risk of "a systemic collapse of Yemen" owing to the long duration of the conflict, in which more than 6,600 people, including combatants, have died, according to World Health Organization figures.

Some 7.6 million people were suffering from malnutrition, and at least 3 million had fled their homes, the UN said.

The conflict pits Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels and pro-Saleh forces, who control the capital, Sanaa, along with other territory, against forces loyal to the government of internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Houthi rebels holding weapons in the air
Houthis have control of the capital, SanaaImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/H.Mohammed

Other groups, such as the "Islamic State" and al Qaeda, have joined the fray, killing many civilians, according to the report.

Saudi Arabia is also leading a coalition of nine Arab states that has been carrying out airstrikes in support of Hadi since March 2015. The campaign has drawn widespread criticism, with many aid groups saying it has aggravated an already dire humanitarian situation.

The UN call for an independent probe, came as US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Saudi Arabia on the conflict in Yemen, among others.

Kerry was to meet with UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Britain's Middle East undersecretary Tobias Ellwood, and the foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A State Department official said Kerry wanted to "share ideas and initiatives for ... trying to get a political solution" and discuss mechanisms for delivering humanitarian aid to Yemen.

tj/ (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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