UN investigates war crimes in Yemen

The United Nations has just approved the continuation of an investigation into the possible war crimes committed by belligerents in the Yemeni Civil War. An ongoing operation begun in September of 2017, when the United Nations passed Resolution 36/31. This measure was implemented after three years of pressure from Amnesty International, as well as efforts on the part of countless other groups and individuals.

Kevin Whelan, Amnesty International’s senior advocate said that the vote sent a “clear signal to all perpetrators of crimes under international law in Yemen that impunity is not an option.”

He also emphasized the necessary impartiality for any such operation, noting that everyone involved in situation, “including the Saudi and UAE-led coalition, the Yemeni government and the Huthi de facto authorities-must fully cooperate with the UN investigation team and help facilitate their work.”

The resolution is worded to take account of the “allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and of violations and abuses of human rights law in Yemen.”

Specific concerns include the safety of children and the horrific conditions they have endured, as well as the overall unsafe environment for humanitarian workers and civilians. The United Nations probe also mentions the current state of basic human rights such as freedom of press and religion, both of which are under grave threat in Yemen.

Another complicating factor in this already delicate situation is the United States’ backing of the Saudi and United Arab Emirates-led coalition.

Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times reports that this has been called the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

There has been a significant amount of collateral damage. At times, Yemeni civilians have been killed by American-made bombs. Some, like David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary in 2010 and is currently the president of the International Rescue Committee, have pointed out that the status quo actually helps terrorist groups in some respects.

“This is not a case where humanitarian suffering is the price of winning a war,” Miliband said. “No one is winning, except the extremist groups who thrive on chaos.”

At times, the role of the United States in this area has been indirect, and therefore our exact responsibilities can be difficult to pin down.

“The United States is not directly bombing civilians in Yemen, but it is providing arms, intelligence and aerial refueling to assist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Kristof said.