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Lift blockade of Yemen to stop “catastrophe” of millions facing starvation, says UN expert

GENEVA (12 April 2017) – The blockade of war-ravaged Yemen must be lifted immediately to allow the entry of relief supplies to tackle a humanitarian catastrophe in which millions of people are facing famine, says a UN rights expert.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, says the plight of people in the country is becoming increasingly desperate.

UN figures suggest that more than 21 million people - about 82% of the population - are in need of humanitarian assistance. Seven million of them are facing famine.
Thousands of civilians have also been killed in airstrikes which have been continuing since the conflict deepened more than two years ago with the military intervention of a Saudi-led coalition.

“The unwarranted restrictions on the flow of commercial and humanitarian goods and services into Yemen and impeding distribution within the country are paralyzing a nation that for far too long has been a victim of war,” the UN expert says.

Mr. Jazairy stressed that the aerial and naval blockade imposed on Yemen by the coalition forces since March 2015 was one of the main causes of the humanitarian catastrophe. It has restricted and disrupted the import and export of food, fuel and medical supplies as well as humanitarian aid

The blockade involves a variety of regulatory, mostly arbitrary, restrictions enforced by the coalition forces – including an unreasonable delay and/or denial of entry to vessels in Yemeni ports. Mr. Jazairy says it amounts to an unlawful unilateral coercive measure (UCM) under international law.

The UN Special Rapporteur pointed to the dramatic situation of Al Hudaydah Port, the major lifeline for imports into Yemen, a country that is 80–90% dependent on imported food, medicines and fuel for its survival.

Following airstrikes in August 2015, the port now operates at reduced capacity. Mr. Jazairy deplored in particular that new cranes which could replace those destroyed by the airstrikes and help restore Al Hudaydah to its full capacity, cannot be unloaded because long clearance procedures have the effect of disabling port facilities and slow to a trickle humanitarian imports, causing vital supplies to be wasted.

“Despite assurances from the coalition forces, the situation on the ground remains desperate,” Mr. Jazairy says. “The blockade involves grave breaches of the most basic norms of human rights law, as well as of the law of armed conflict, which cannot be left unanswered.”
He expressed his “deep concern at this man-made famine which is generated by the conflict.”

“I call on all parties to the fighting to spare the basic rights to life, food and decent living of innocent civilians and to pursue the settlement of their differences through negotiation while restoring unhindered access to the port of Al Hudaydah immediately, especially for humanitarian supplies,” the expert concluded.

Mr. Jazairy’s appeal has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Ms. Hilal Elver, and the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Mr. Alfred de Zayas.

Mr. Idriss Jazairy was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. He took office in May 2015. Mr. Jazairy has extensive experience in the fields of international relations and human rights with the Algerian Foreign Ministry, the UN human rights system and international NGOs. He holds a M.A. (Oxford) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and an M.P.A. (Harvard). He also graduated from the Ecole nationale d’Administration (France). Mr. Jazairy is the author of books and of a large number of articles in the international press on development, human rights and current affairs.

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Yemen

For more information and media requests, please contact Michelle Erazo (+41 22 917 9449 / merazo@ohchr.org) or write to ucm@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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