Yemen 'pandemic of impunity' must end: UN war crimes experts


Geneva (AFP)

War-ravaged Yemen is in the grip of a "pandemic of impunity", UN war crimes investigators said Wednesday, calling for the case to go before the International Criminal Court.

The investigators, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, lamented in a fresh report that after six years of brutal conflict in Yemen, all sides had continued in the past year to commit a wide range of horrific violations with impunity.

They noted a "consistent pattern" of the parties harming civilians not only amid fighting, but also away from the frontlines, listing abuses including killings, torture, sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers.

"Many of the violations identified may amount to war crimes," one of the three experts, Melissa Parke, told reporters.

"We have to end the pandemic of impunity," she insisted.

Her colleague Ardi Imseis agreed.

"Impunity is endemic," he said, pointing out that while the investigators had "seen some progress in terms of investigations conducted by the parties, to date no one has been held accountable for the violations that the group has identified."

Since 2015, fighting in Yemen has claimed tens of thousands of lives and sparked what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

- 'Shocks the conscience' -

Both the Yemen government and the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in the conflict in 2015 to support the government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels have refused to cooperate with the experts.

To help bring those responsible for violations to account, the experts called on the UN Security Council to refer the case to the ICC in The Hague.

They also called for the creation of a UN investigative mechanism, like the ones that exist for Syria and Myanmar, to "conduct further investigations and prepare case-files" that prosecutors could use to bring perpetrators to justice.

Parke pointed out that the group last year already had said that the situation in Yemen had "reached a surreal and absurd dimension".

"The situation has not improved," she said.

"The continuation of violations this year underlines the complete lack of respect for international law being displayed by parties."

As the experts presented their third report, full of gruesome details, Imseis said the world had no excuse not to act.

"It is now impossible for anyone to say that we didn't know," he said, reiterating the team's call on countries to stop providing weapons to the different sides in the conflict.

"This situation should shock the conscience of humanity."