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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on Yemen

10 September 2019

Human Rights Council 42nd Session

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Geneva, 10 September 2019

Distinguished President,
Colleagues and friends,

I am pleased to be with you today, and it is my privilege to welcome the members of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen – Kamel Jendoubi, Melissa Parke and Charles Garraway.

Before we hear their detailed findings and recommendations, I want to highlight why our engagement with the situation in Yemen is so critical.

The people of Yemen are living through a terrible humanitarian crisis. Every imaginable source of human misery and suffering is tied up in this single conflict: war, disease, famine, economic collapse, international terrorism, widespread human rights violations and probable war crimes.

Almost no area of daily life is untouched. Basic state services and institutions have stopped functioning. Millions of women, men and children lack access to even basic health care. Prices are rising sharply in urban areas.  Fuel shortages are disrupting local markets. Vital infrastructure is being damaged. People are losing their livelihoods or no longer receive their salaries. Many families are being forced to flee their homes. The impact on civilians has been truly devastating. Nearly 80 per cent of the population, more than 24 million people, requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. And more than two thirds of the country’s districts risk famine.

The civilian death toll also continues to rise.  As of 5 September 2019, our staff in Yemen verified 7,508 civilian deaths, including 1,997 children, since 26 March 2015.

Last week’s Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on the Community College building in Dhamar resulted in the killing of at least 109 people, and injuries to another 50 people. My office in Yemen is currently investigating this attack.

Mr. President,

The terrible impact of this conflict on the people of Yemen is the responsibility of all parties to the conflict. While most civilian casualties are caused by airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, my Office has also documented civilian deaths and injuries caused by forces and popular committees affiliated with the Houthis, by army units loyal to President Hadi, by forces aligned with the Southern Transitional Council, and by other groups.

I am particularly alarmed by the rapid deterioration of the security and human rights situation in the South, where armed clashes have taken place between the forces aligned with the Southern Transitional Council and government forces. Since early August, my office verified 63 civilian casualties as a result of these clashes, including 25 killed and 38 injured, in Aden, Lahj, Shabwah and Abyan governorates.

The forces aligned with the Southern Transitional Council have launched a mass arrest and deportation campaign against Northerners in Aden governorate, as well as in some parts of Lahj and Abyan governorates. Information received by my Office indicates that over a thousand of civilians with northern origins, including children, have been seized, with reports that they are to be forcibly deported to the North of Yemen. The Office has also verified three cases of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by Security Belt forces in Aden and Lahj.

All parties have restricted the movement of humanitarian personnel and goods.  All have attacked journalists, media workers and human rights defenders carrying out their legitimate work. All have engaged in arbitrary or illegal detentions. 

Many of these violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law may amount to war crimes.  It is essential to prospects for sustainable peace and reconciliation that those responsible be held to account. 

Our commitment to Yemen and its people will remain undiminished. My Office will continue to document violations and to strongly advocate for the perpetrators to be held to account.  The work by the Group of Eminent Experts isa significant contribution to efforts to ensure that accountability mechanisms are established for victims of the conflict. I invite all Member States to take into consideration and implement their important recommendations.

Thank you, and I now welcome the chairperson of the Group of Eminent Experts, Mr. Kamel Jendoubi, to the podium to share the new report.