Human Rights Council
9–27 September 2019
Agenda item 2
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
Submitted as a supplement to A/HRC/42/17, this report sets out the detailed findings of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen mandated to investigate violations by parties to the conflict since September 2014.
Some parties to the conflict, namely the Governments of Yemen, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt chose not to cooperate with the Group of Eminent Experts. The de facto authorities responded to the questions posed in writing and agreed to a visit of the Group of Experts to Sana’a, however the lack of cooperation by the Government and coalition members prevented any access to Yemen. Despite access constraints, the Group of Experts gathered a wide array of evidence related to allegations of violations of international law in Yemen since September 2014.
The Group of Experts found reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the conflict in Yemen are responsible for an array of human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law. Some of these violations are likely to amount to war crimes. The summary of these findings is included in A/HRC/42/17.
This report presents the details of the findings by the Group of Experts with regard to the practical impact of these violations on the lives of ordinary Yemenis, which has been immense and wide ranging. Shelling and airstrikes create the sense that there is no safe place to hide from the fighting. Landmines left by the Houthis kill and maim people long after battles have subsided. The blockade, siege-like tactics, attacks impacting objects essential to the survival of the population and impediments to the delivery of aid deprive the population of necessary items amidst the unprecedented humanitarian crisis. People are arrested and detained arbitrarily, disappeared, and subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence. The population lives in fear of being detained or otherwise targeted for any perceived dissent. Parties to the conflict actively recruit children, including through force, and restrict the work of activists, journalists, human rights defenders and humanitarian workers.
The Group of Experts has identified a number of individuals who may bear responsibility for violations and possible crimes. The individuals concerned should be investigated with a view to prosecution. Their names have been communicated on a strictly confidential basis to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The failure of the parties to acknowledge any responsibility for violations and their refusal to take any meaningful steps to remedy the situations from which they occur has resulted in a pervasive lack of accountability, which only further encourages the cycle of disregard for the rights of the Yemeni population and foments impunity for crimes committed in Yemen. The Government of Yemen has a responsibility to remedy the violations as a matter of the utmost urgency. The de facto authorities and members of the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, bear enormous responsibility and must take action against those within their ranks who are responsible.
The onus is also on the international community, especially those States that have influence over parties to the conflict, to both condemn and take appropriate steps to prevent the violations and to assist Yemen in ensuring that the perpetrators of crimes are held to account. Moreoever, the continued supply of weapons to parties involved in the conflict in Yemen perpetuates the conflict and the suffering of the population.
The Group of Experts and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have formulated concrete recommendations in their reports to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/30/31, A/HRC/33/38, A/HRC/36/33, A/HRC39/43, and A/HRC/42/17), as have many international and national civil society organizations. These recommendations should be implemented immediately.
The Group of Experts reiterates that steps required to address the human rights and international law violations in Yemen have been continually discussed, and there can no longer be any excuses made for failure to take meaningful steps to address them. The best way to protect the Yemeni population is to stop the fighting by reaching a political settlement which includes measures for accountability.
I. Introduction and mandate
Concerned by continued reports of violations and abuses of international law in Yemen, namely those directly arising from the ongoing armed conflict, the Human Rights Council (the “Council”), in its resolution 36/31 of 29 September 2017, requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to create a group of eminent international and regional experts with knowledge on human rights law and the context of Yemen to monitor and report on the situation of human rights (“Group of Experts”).
The Group of Experts was mandated to carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and other appropriate and applicable fields of international law committed by all parties to the armed conflict in Yemen since September 2014, including the possible gender dimensions of such violations.
The Group of Experts was further mandated: to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses and, where possible, to identify those responsible; to make recommendations, as appropriate, on improving respect for and protection and fulfilment of human rights; and to provide guidance on access to justice, accountability, reconciliation and healing.
The Group of Experts’ mandate requires it to “engage with Yemeni authorities and all stakeholders” particularly United Nations agencies, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Yemen, Gulf States and the League of Arab States, “with a view to exchanging information and providing support for national, regional and international efforts to promote accountability for human rights violations and abuses in Yemen.” 4. Resolution 36/31, adopted by the Council by consensus, requested the High Commissioner to appoint the experts no later than the end of 2017, and requested the Group of Experts to submit a comprehensive written report to the High Commissioner prior to the thirty-ninth Council session in September 2018, followed by an interactive dialogue, and encouraged all parties to the armed conflict to extend full and transparent access and cooperation to the Experts. The resolution further requested the High Commissioner to provide substantive capacity building, technical assistance, advice and legal support to the National Commission of Inquiry (“NCOI”) in Yemen.1 5. On 4 December 2017, the High Commissioner established the Group of Experts, appointing Charles Garraway (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland),
Kamel Jendoubi (Tunisia) and Melissa Parke (Australia) as the experts, assigning Mr.
Jendoubi as Chair. The Experts serve in a non-remunerated, independent capacity. The Group of Experts is supported by a secretariat of professional staff from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (“OHCHR”) based in Beirut consisting of a coordinator, human rights investigators and analysts, legal, military, child protection, and gender advisers, and linguistic, security and administrative support staff.
The first staff members of the OHCHR secretariat began work in December 2017; the majority of the OHCHR secretariat began work in January-February 2018; the final staff member for the first mandate arrived in early June 2018. The findings of the Group of Experts, as contained in A/HRC/39/43, were submitted by late July for technical editing in advance of the Council session.
On 28 August 2018, the Group of Experts released its first written report containing initial findings and recommendations, which the High Commissioner transmitted to the Council during its thirty-ninth session (A/HRC/39/43). This document included also the High Commissioner’s report on technical assistance to the NCOI. Following the presentation of its report to the Council, the Group of Experts held an interactive dialogue on 26 September 2018 in Geneva.
On 28 September 2018, the Council adopted resolution 39/16, extending the mandate of the Group of Experts for a further year, requesting the next report of the Group to be presented at the forty-second Council session in September 2019. The mandate remains renewable as authorised by the Council. Resolution 39/16 was passed by a vote of 21 to 8, with 18 abstentions. It was opposed by Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
In its first report, covering the period from 1 September 2014 to 30 June 2018, the Group of Experts examined incidents based on the gravity of allegations of violations; their significance in demonstrating patterns of alleged violations; access to victims, witnesses and supporting documentation; and the geographic locations of the incidents, noting its inability to exhaustively document the extraordinary number of relevant incidents occurring during that period, but stating nevertheless that it considered the report illustrative of the main patterns and types of violations. The first report further noted many issues that the Group of Experts was unable to fully investigate, including noting particular alleged violations and abuses that required further investigation.
In line with the renewed mandate in resolution 39/16, this report of the detailed findings of the Group, intended to be read in conjunction with and as a supplement to the August 2019 Report of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts as submitted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/42/17), covers issues related to the human rights situation in Yemen between September 2014 and June 2019.
Considering the increased access constraints faced by the Group of Experts following its September 2018 mandate renewal, the Group of Experts continued work towards fulfilling its mandate by prioritising investigation of incidents since September 2014 based on gravity of alleged violations and their significance in demonstrating patterns.
Situations and incidents referenced in this report were selected on this basis. Investigations during the second mandate period were supported by a secretariat of professional staff from OHCHR with increased resources compared to the previous year. A small transitional team of OHCHR secretariat staff began work after the renewal of the mandate in October 2018; the majority of the OHCHR secretariat began work in January-February 2019; the final members of the team arrived in early April 2019. The findings of the Group of Experts as contained in A/HRC/42/17 were required to be submitted by late July for technical editing in advance of the Council session.
This detailed report and the High Commissioner’s report containing the findings of the Group of Experts (A/HRC/42/17) are based upon information gathered and analysed by the Group of Experts since its creation, including evidence related to issues and cases referenced in the Group of Experts’ August 2018 report, additional evidence gathered during the first year of the mandate that could not be referenced or used in that report or which remained under investigation, and further information gathered and analysed between August 2018 and June 2019.
The Group of Experts is grateful for the assistance and support it has received from government and non-government entities, United Nations agencies and partners working on Yemen. The Group of Experts notes that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Government of Yemen, all of whom cooperated with the Group of Experts in its first year, sent detailed lists to United Nations leadership of points they took issue with in the Group of Experts’ first report, and noted that they would not cooperate with the Group of Experts following renewal of its mandate in September 2018. All points noted in these letters were considered by the Group; while many were repetitive of those raised previously and responded to during the interactive dialogue in September 2018, others, which were raised for the first time, were taken into account in planning for and executing the investigations undertaken during the Group’s renewed mandate period. After having had access to Yemen and the opportunity to meet officials representing parties to the conflict during its first mandate, the Group of Experts could not visit Yemen during the second mandate because its repeated requests for authorisation to conduct visits remained unanswered. Only the de facto authorities agreed in writing to receive the Group of Experts but such a visit failed to materialise because the Government of Yemen did not approve the required visas.2 The Group’s repeated requests for meetings with officials of the Government of Yemen, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates since September 2018 had remained unanswered at the time of writing.