UN Report accuses UAE of Human Rights Abuses in Yemen
The three-and-a-half-year Yemeni conflict has caused untold misery and suffering among the civilian population who have been subjected to systematic human rights abuses and potential war crimes, United Nation’s investigators said in a damning report produced on Tuesday.
The 41-page document, which charts the period of the conflict from September 2014 to June 2018, found that Saudi-led coalition forces had killed thousands of civilians in indiscriminate airstrikes, raped and tortured prisoners in secret jails, and - through a naval and air blockade - brought one the poorest countries in the Arab world to the brink of famine
Though the report charges all actors in the conflict, including the Houthi Rebels, of flouting international law and committing potential war crimes, UN experts said Emirati and Saudi airstrikes were responsible for causing most civilian deaths - citing indiscriminate coalition attacks on market places, weddings, funerals, medical facilities, residential areas and jails.
In a review of over sixty coalition airstrikes on residential areas, the report found that Saudi and Emirati forces had killed more than 500 people, including 233 children. In 2016, a UAE airstrike on a funeral in Sana killed at least 137 civilians. The publication of the report comes not long after a Saudi-coalition airstrike this month which killed 40 school children on a school bus.
According to official figures, the conflict has so far claimed the lives of at least 16,700, including 6,475 civilians, but Tuesday’s report stated that the real figure is likely to be substantially higher.
UN experts also said coalitions military blockade of the country, which has been imposed to varying degrees since the onset of the conflict in 2015, has created one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. Since November 2017, Saudi and UAE forces have imposed a total naval and air blockade on all borders of Yemen preventing all humanitarian aid and commercial trade, including food and fuel, into the country. Prior to the conflict, nearly 90% of food, fuel and medical supplies in Yemen were imported. The report said that, as of April 2018, 17.8m Yemenis were food insecure and 8.4m were on the brink of famine. Moreover, a lack of clean water, medical supplies and a functioning healthcare system have led to an outbreak of cholera in one of the region’s poorest countries.
Tuesday’s report also cited widespread practices of arbitrary detention and torture in Emirati-controlled prisons across the country. On a visit to al-Rayyan and Bureiqa prison - two facilities the UAE administer directly - UN experts found that Emirati personnel had subjected detainees to torture and sexual abuse, including the rape of adult male detainees. On closer inspection, investigators also found that many prison inmates had been disappeared, held without charge, not given the right to a fair trial, denied access to a lawyer and had been held incommunicado for prolonged or indefinite periods.
Tuesday’s report concludes by calling on the international community to “refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict.”
Since the onset of the conflict a number of arms-supplying states in Europe, including Norway, Finland and, most recently, Germany have halted arms sales to Saudi-led coalition actors. However, despite substantial pressure from human rights groups, the principal suppliers of the conflict, the UK and the US, have not followed suit. Since the conflict began British arms manufactures have sold over £8bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, while the US has authorised over $90 billion in military equipment to the Gulf State.