Human right groups have called for an urgent inquiry into the ongoing conflict situation in Yemen which has led to what has been called the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. A joint NGO letter, signed by 62 organisations both local and international, to the United Nations Human Rights Council said the number of abuses has increased since 2015.
The NGO crisis call to form an international independent inquiry cited how at least seven million people are now on the brink of famine and hundreds of thousands suffering from cholera.
The letter also highlighted how: ‘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 Saudi Arabia-led coalition has conducted scores of unlawful airstrikes, some of which may amount to war crimes, that have killed thousands of civilians and hit schools, hospitals, markets, and homes. The Houthi armed group and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have fired weapons indiscriminately into populated areas in Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia and used explosive weapons with wide-scale effects in cities such as Taizz and Aden, killing and maiming scores in attacks that may amount to war crimes.
Both sides have harassed, arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared Yemeni activists, human rights defenders and journalists, shrinking the space for civil society groups and the media to operate throughout the country. The number of the “missing” is also growing: Houthi-Saleh forces, forces affiliated with the Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and the United Arab Emirates and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared hundreds, denying family members access to their loved ones or even information on the fate of those detained.
Parties to the conflict are recruiting and deploying child soldiers. Both sides have used widely banned weapons that can endanger civilians long after a conflict ends. The Saudi-led coalition has used at least seven types of clustermunitions, and the Houthi-Saleh side has laid antipersonnel landmines in a number of Yemeni governorates.’
Dr Jean-François Corty, director of international operations at Médecins du Monde, who were one of the co signatories, argued how an independent inquiry would increase pressure on the UK, France and other countries supporting the Saudi forces.
“[France and the UK] are supporting a coalition which does not respect human rights,” said Corty.
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said that Saudi Arabia were fully entitled to defend themselves and the UK was a key partner of theirs…an enormously important trading partner and defence partner.
Earlier this year campaigners in the UK lost a high profile case calling for UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia to be stopped over humanitarian concerns, when the high court ruled exports could continue.
Since the start of the Saudi military involvement in Yemen in 2015 the UK government’s arms sales to the kingdom has been criticized by NGOs and MPs with allegations of how Saudi-led bombing led to the killing of civilians and damaging the country’s infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia has long been the largest importer of UK arms and has bought more than £3bn worth of British weapons in the past two years.
“We have constantly condemned the use of these weapons by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and called for the suspension of the arms sales to Saudi Arabia to show that we are wanting a peace process in Yemen, not an invasion by Saudi Arabia.
“All of those allegations have to be investigated, and the evidence has to come forward,” said Corbyn.
“And arms sales policy has to reflect that we do not believe those countries that commit abuses of human rights or kill civilians with the use of those weapons should continue to receive British arms,” said Corbyn.
Last year a motion fully supported by the Labour leader to condemn South Arabia for the bombing of civilians in Yemen: calling for a halt to arm deals and an independent UN investigation was defeated when 100 Labour MPs failed to back it.
Why is Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, involved in a costly and merciless war against its mountainous southern neighbour Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East? When the Saudis attacked the hitherto obscure Houthi militia, which they believed had Iranian backing, to oust Yemen’s government in 2015, they expected an easy victory. They appealed for Western help and bought weapons worth billions of dollars from Britain and America; yet two years later the Houthis, a unique Shia sect, have the upper hand.In her revealing portrait of modern Yemen, Ginny Hill delves into its recent history, dominated by the enduring and pernicious influence of career dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled for three decades before being forced out by street protests in 2011. Saleh masterminded patronage networks that kept the state weak, allowing conflict, social inequality and terrorism to flourish. In the chaos that follows his departure, civil war and regional interference plague the country while separatist groups, Al-Qaeda and ISIS compete to exploit the broken state. And yet, Yemen endures.
Yemen has seen a major surge in drone strikes in the past two weeks as the US hunts for al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents. In 2012, the US carried out more drone strikes in Yemen than anywhere else.