The U.N. Human Rights Office warns civilians in Yemen are increasingly being used as fodder by all warring parties in their quest to gain control of the country, a situation that continues to elude them all after seven years of civil war.
U.N. officials who have been monitoring the impact of this wrenching conflict accuse Saudi-backed pro-government forces and Iranian-supported Houthi rebels of violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, some amounting to war crimes.
They say crimes and atrocities are being committed with impunity and with no regard for the safety of civilians or civilian infrastructure. They say all actions by armed groups are taken in complete disregard of any international law. They cite the recent example of the public execution of nine men by the Houthis.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado says the defendants were sentenced to death in a judicial process that did not comply with fair trial standards under international law.
“They were reportedly tortured and forced to sign confessions. In addition, they were denied their right to assistance from a lawyer at several stages of the proceedings. A request for a medical assessment of the youngest defendant to help to ascertain his age was denied, in violation of Yemeni legislation and human rights norms,” she said.
U.N. monitors also express concern at the repeated use of drones and missile attacks both by the Houthis and by the Saudi-led coalition. Hurtado says these attacks have resulted in civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian property in Yemen and in Saudi Arabia.
“We recall that any attack directed against civilian objects or civilians not directly taking part in the hostilities may amount to war crimes,” she said. “Reports that security forces affiliated to the Southern Transitional Council authorities have used unnecessary and disproportionate force against demonstrators protesting against deteriorating living conditions and the lack of public services are equally worrying.”
The U.N. human rights office calls on the warring parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and to hold violators accountable for their crimes.
It notes that an armed conflict or any declared state of emergency or curfew does not exempt the government or de facto authorities of these obligations.