On the sidelines of the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in collaboration with Amnesty International, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and the International Federation for Human Rights, organized a panel on Tuesday September 15 on Yemen, entitled “Civilians and Rights Activists under Fire in Yemen: Addressing Impunity that Fuels Humanitarian Crisis”.
The panel discussion hosted Belkis Wille, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch; Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International; and Khaled Ibrahim, the co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. The discussion was moderated by Philippe Dam, deputy director of the Geneva office of Human Rights Watch.
At the outset of the panel, Human Rights Watch displayed a series of satellite images demonstrating the intentional targeting of civilians in Yemen by airstrikes launched by Arab coalition forces. Belkis Wille stated that there is documentation of grave violations committed against civilians by both parties to the conflict and that several of them could amount to war crimes.
Khaled Ibrahim of the Gulf Center drew attention to the plight of human rights activists in Yemen, who face daily threats and are treated by all warring parties as part of the conflict.
Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International affirmed that both sides of the conflict committed mass violations against the population, used children in the conflict, and launched indiscriminate attacks locating themselves in and firing into residential areas. Rovera referred as well to the continuous reigning of impunity and the absolute lack of accountability for violations committed since the conflict escalated in Yemen.
All speakers condemned the ongoing impunity for crimes in Yemen, noting that the absence of accountability mechanisms is exacerbating the humanitarian suffering of civilians and serving the interest of the warring parties, that have all violated the principle of proportionality in the use of force and have demonstrated no intention of changing the way they operate or compensating the civilians have been harmed.
Participants also reiterated their call for the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate violations committed by all parties in Yemen reminding national and international actors that fueling the culture of impunity in Yemen and avoiding activating measures of accountability for crimes committed since 2011 are the reason behind the escalation of violence and grave repeated attacks against civilians.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted in a recently released report on Yemen that 1,527 civilians were killed during the period between March and July 2015 as a result of the conflict, pointing out that 508 civilians were killed in the context of joint operations led by the popular committees and military forces loyal to former President Saleh in ground battles, and 941 as a result of air strikes by the coalition. The OHCHR noted in a press statement issued on September 1 that the current number of civilian casualties has reached 2112.
The undetonated cluster ammunition used by the coalition forces have become ticking land mines threatening even more civilian lives. In addition, Houthis and other groups allied to ex-president Saleh have opened fire indiscriminately on civilian populated areas.At the while, the blockade on Yemen has worsened the suffering of local inhabitants, making it difficult to access aid and goods for those in urgent need.
The UN Human Rights Council inaugurated its 30th session on Monday, September 14, in Geneva, which will continue until October 2nd. The Human Rights Council is the principal human rights UN body. It convenes for three ordinary sessions every year to discuss human rights issues from around the world. CIHRS will participate in this session with several oral statements, as well as various panels and meetings held on the sidelines of the session.
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