International human rights groups, including Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites], issued a joint letter [text] on Thursday to the permanent representatives of member and observer states of the UN Human Rights Council urging them “to support the High Commissioner’s call for an international, independent investigation into civilian deaths and injuries in Yemen.” Pointing out that nearly 3,800 civilians have been killed and more than 6,700 wounded since March 2015, the letter claimed that “the council has missed critical opportunities to address alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Yemen.” Numerous kinds of human rights and humanitarian violations were cited by the letter including, airstrikes that have repeatedly hit homes, hospitals, markets, civilian factories and schools; laying of internationally banned antipersonnel landmines; arbitrary detention of civilians; raiding offices of non-governmental organizations, and blocking of the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to civilians. Stating that “No valid human rights-based reason has been identified that would justify failing to create an international inquiry,” the groups warned that “If the Council once again fails to create an international inquiry, it will have shirked its mandate to promote accountability, failed to help provide victims of violations in Yemen the justice to which they are entitled, and undermined its own credibility as the Council marks its tenth anniversary.”
The rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen has sparked significant international concern. Last month the UN High Commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile], called on the international community [JURIST report] to establish an independent international body for conducting comprehensive investigations of human rights violations in Yemen. According to a report [text, DOC] from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released in August, the civilian death estimate was at only 2,800 in January [JURIST report], which would mean that approximately another 1,000 have died in as little as nine months. The report further indicates that an approximate 7.6 million people, including three million women and children, are currently suffering from malnutrition and at least three million people have been displaced from their homes. The OHCHR condemned [JURIST report] a string of rocket and mortar attacks against residential areas and markets in Taizz, Yemen, from June 3 to June 8. In March UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] warned [JURIST report] that the use of cluster bombs by the Saudi-led coalition against neighborhoods in Yemen may amount to a war crime. In January the UN World Food Programme [official website] appealed to all the parties involved in the Yemen conflict to allow the safe passage of food [JURIST report] to the city of Taiz. In October AI called for [JURIST report] an independent investigation into possible war crimes surrounding the destruction of a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Yemen.