We, the undersigned NGOs, urge your government to support the renewal and strengthening of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen through the enhancement of its reporting structure and strengthening language on accountability, as a matter of priority at the upcoming 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, taking place from 10 – 27 September.
Since the 36th session of the Human Rights Council when the mandate was created, deteriorating and appalling conditions as a result of this “entirely man-made catastrophe” have continued to put the lives and well-being of millions of civilians in Yemen at risk, and turned Yemen into the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. These conditions are exacerbated by continuing grave and widespread violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Over the last year, parties to the conflict have regularly restricted humanitarian aid; repeatedly attacked civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals; harassed and intimidated human rights defenders; and conducted arbitrary arrests, detentions and executions. (For further information, please see attached annex.)
Despite these widespread violations, all sides to the conflict have failed to conduct credible investigations into abuses. Saudi Arabia recently announced a royal decision “pardoning all military men who have taken part in the Operation Restoring Hope [begun in April 2015] of their respective military and disciplinary penalties.” The sweeping and vaguely worded statement did not clarify what limitations, if any, applied to the pardon.
With an increasing number of victims of abuses in Yemen and the worsening humanitarian crisis, it is essential that the international community maintain and strengthen efforts to deter ongoing violations and abuses of international law by all parties to the conflict, and to ensure that perpetrators are held to account. Furthermore, we are concerned that the current Group of Eminent Experts have had limited time in which to carry out their mandate and ensure a full, independent investigation into all alleged violations.
In the interest of effective and meaningful efforts towards accountability, it is vital that member states adopt a resolution at the upcoming 39th session of the Council providing for the continuation of the Group of Eminent Experts in its vital work to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law, to establish the facts and circumstances and identify those responsible.
In addition, in order for the Group of Eminent Experts to continue carrying out its current functions in an effective manner, the resolution should request the Group of Eminent Experts to:
• Present a comprehensive written report, in an interactive dialogue, directly to the Human Rights Council at its 42nd session (rather than through a report presented by the High Commissioner on their behalf);
• Provide an oral and/or written update to the 40th and 41st sessions of the Human Rights Council;
• Transmit the report and results of its investigations to the General Assembly, and the resolution should recommend that the General Assembly transmit the report to all relevant bodies of the UN;
• Identify individuals who should be criminally investigated for responsibility for grave crimes under international law committed in Yemen, including through command responsibility.
Should the Council fail to renew the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts, this would send a dangerous signal to parties to the conflict that violations of international law may be perpetrated in Yemen with impunity.
We look forward to working with you to ensure the continuation of the vital work of the Group continues to end this impunity.
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5203
New York, NY 10016-4309, USA