The exceedingly weak response to the rapidly deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Yemen by the United Nations Human Rights Council is a clear failure by the international community to protect innocent civilians against violent attacks and brutal repression. The current resolution on Yemen before the Council lacks decisive action designed to provide accountability for human rights violations in the country or protection for the victims of grave rights violations. Furthermore, this resolution completely ignores clear and unambiguous recommendations made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) after its recent mission to the country, for the Council to set up an “international, independent investigation” into the situation and for those responsible for crimes to be held accountable. In her public press statement on 22 September, the High Commissioner reiterated her call “to allow an international independent investigation into the violations that have taken place” and for the “establishment of an OHCHR country office in Yemen.”
Any resolution to be adopted by the Council on the current situation of human rights in Yemen should:
• Set up an international, independent and impartial commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of violations of human rights and incidents which resulted in heavy loss of life and injuries, and to formulate recommendations to ensure accountability for violations of international human rights law by security forces on largely peaceful anti-government protesters.
• Establish as soon as possible an office or a presence of the OHCHR in Yemen, with a mandate to report publicly on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties and on the government’s implementation of the recommendations contained in the report on the visit by the OHCHR to Yemen.
The current resolution before the Council also ignores the statement released in New York on 23 September by the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which “condemned… the use of weapons, especially heavy weapons against unarmed protesters,” and called “for forming a commission of inquiry in the latest events that have cost the lives of innocent Yemenis.” Nor does this resolution seem to respond appropriately to what the UN Security Council, in a press statement issued on 24 September, has characterized as a “grave concern” of the international community due to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
The Human Rights Council is intended to be the preeminent international body mandated to provide protection for victims of rights violations in situations around the world. In the case of Yemen the Council increasingly appears to instead be adopting a weaker approach to the protection of victims then the other relevant international bodies. This failure of political will among states, including the United States, members of the European Union and League of Arab States, to respond appropriately through the Human Rights Council is unacceptable.
For more than half a year the citizens of Yemen have taken to the streets, in mostly peaceful fashion, to demand their fundamental rights and democratic reform. The dominant response of the government of Yemen to these protests has been to repeatedly break promises of reform, while carrying out severe repressive measures against protesters, including the use of lethal force. In some instances snipers have been dispatched to rooftops to target protesters, military artillery has been fired at crowds of unarmed civilians, plain clothes assailants have been sent into crowds with sticks and knives, and the use of arbitrary arrest and detention and other grave rights violations has increased rapidly.
Over the last week the situation has witnessed an unprecedented deterioration with scores of people having been killed in Yemen since September 19. The government has resorted to using full military force against groups of peaceful protesters. As noted by the OHCHR mission, the government of Yemen appears unwilling or unable to institute sufficient accountability measures to ensure further violations and conflict are avoided.
We call on your government to take immediate action to ensure a resolution is passed by the Council this Friday, 30 September, that adheres to the recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and takes the duties of the Council seriously. The people of Yemen deserve better.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).
Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC).
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defender Project (EHAHRDP).
Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights (EIPR).
Human Rights Watch (HRW).
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).
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