The United Nations has accused the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of committing war crimes in Yemen during its ongoing civil war which began in 2015 as an internal conflict between supporters of the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels, which oppose the legitimacy of the administration. Since then, the conflict has only escalated with the Houthis taking control of much of the country and many having to flee their homes. This has resulted in what the United Nations’ Humanitarian Aid Agency has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The ongoing conflict has triggered food insecurity, mass internal displacement, breakdown of the state’s health care system and fostered the largest cholera outbreak this past year. According to a report released by the United Nations on the issue, there have been at least 6,475 deaths related to this event since the war began in March of 2015.
The alleged acts include rape, torture, arbitrary detention, child recruitment, as well as unlawful deprivation of the right to life. Human Rights Council experts also indicated that there is a possibility that crimes were committed by the Shia militia rebels, which have been opposing the coalition of Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and the Yemeni government. Many countries, such as the United States and Britain, have been providing arms to the coalition, something which the UN Human Rights Council has condemned due to the possibility of the weapons being used to commit war crimes. Iran has also been said to be arming the Yemeni rebel group, the Houthis.
The Saudi government has suggested that the report is “not accurate” and overlooks the violent actions of the Houthi militia which has illegally seized territory and countlessly fired missiles at Saudi Arabia. The United States Defense Secretary released a statement of support stating that his country’s “efforts to minimize civilian casualties are paying off” and that “[they] have not seen any callous disregard by the people [they’re] working with.” Despite this, reports dating to last year suggest that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for running a series of secret detention facilities containing hundreds of detainees. There have also been a dozen reported airstrikes that have killed civilians and have brought to light that the strikes are recklessly endangering the lives of innocent people, potentially constituting war crimes.
Last year, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution which led to the creation of a team of war crime experts and launched a probe into war crimes in Yemen since 2015. The UN human rights chief now possesses a “Confidential list” of those suspected of committing acts in violation of international law in Yemen. The hope is that we could see the indictment of multiple war criminals and potentially have action being taken to effectively assist those affected by the events which have transpired. Until all allegations of war crimes are dismissed, it is crucial that governments around the world refrain from engaging in any activity which could further the causes of both the Saudi-led coalition and the rebel militias. With the ongoing political instability in and around the Middle East, it is crucial that situations such as the one in Yemen are not allowed to escalate due to its devastating effects on civilians, as well as the overall detriment of world peace and security which this contributes to.