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Yemen: War crimes hidden behind unchecked violations

As 2020 comes to an end, the war continues to thrive in Yemen. Both sides of the conflict are relentless, while innocent children and civilians pay the bloody price. Thus, the war that started in 2015 continues to break the country. What’s worse, the world is turning a blind eye to the various war crimes disguised behind unchecked violations.

The most impoverished nation

The fighting between the Saudi-backed coalition supporting the internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebel group has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Since the beginning of the armed conflict, reports prove that more than 230,000 Yemenis died as a result of the war. The lack of food, health services, and infrastructure was the main reason behind more than half of those deaths.

“Acute malnutrition rates among children below five years old are the highest ever recorded in parts of southern Yemen, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification”, said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson, Marixie Mercado. “This new analysis released today puts the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition this year at 587,573, which is an increase of around 10% since January this year.”

Kamel Jendoubi, the Chairperson of the UN Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen, also added that “Civilians in Yemen are not starving, they are being starved by the parties to the conflict”.

High and tragic levels of violations

The ongoing UN humanitarian investigation has unveiled tragic levels of violations taking place in the war-torn country. The report outlined serious human rights violations that include mortar attacks, laying of landmines, recruitment of child soldiers, and the use of torture such as sexual violence.

“Our investigations this year have confirmed rampant levels of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes”, Mr. Jendoubi continued.

Both forces are detaining civilians without informing them of the reasons for their arrest, without charging them all while denying them access to lawyers or a judge. Many are held incommunicado for prolonged or indefinite periods. Plus, some remain missing to this day. While under arrest, many are subjected to ill-treatment and torture.

Furthermore, the report shed the light on the patterns of air attacks. Instead of minimizing the casualties, the airstrikes are targeting residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats, and even medical facilities. “There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call on them to prioritize human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” added Kamel Jendoubi

Moreover, civilians are denied the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Everyone responsible

The report highlighted the fact that all the parties involved are guilty. It also cited each action committed by the government, Houthis, separatist Southern Transitional Council, and members of the Coalition, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, none of them are held accountable.

Additionally, these ongoing violations “underlines the complete lack of respect for international law and human life being displayed by parties to the conflict”, said Mr. Jendoubi.  “For civilians in Yemen, there is simply no safe place to escape the ravages of the war”.

At the Brink of Famine

Though the numbers are increasing, hope still exists. However, for change to happen, “the world cannot stand by as Yemen slips into famine and millions of vulnerable children and families go hungry”, stressed UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore.

“The situation is already catastrophic, and without urgent action, more children will die”, she cautioned. “We have prevented famine in Yemen before, and we should be able to prevent it again, with increased support and with unimpeded access to every child and family in need”.


Disappearances and torture in southern Yemen detention facilities must be investigated as war crimes. (2018, July 12). Amnesty International. Behind the Coalition. (2020, May 27). Human Rights Watch. | Yemen: United Nations Experts point to possible war crimes by parties to the conflict. (n.d.). Other. Retrieved December 9, 2020, from to declare famine ‘will be too late for Yemenis on brink of. (2020, July 14). UN News. Unchecked violations ‘may amount to war crimes’, Security. (2020, December 7). UN News. children suffer record rates of acute malnutrition, putting. (2020, October 29). UN News.