On 4 December 2017, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein announced his official appointments for the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen. The members are Kamel Jendoubi of Tunisia, who will serve as chairperson, Melissa Parke of Australia, and Charles Garraway of the United Kingdom. The Group’s establishment is the fulfillment of a September 2017 Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution calling for independent commission to monitor and report on the conflict in Yemen so as to promote and protect human rights, and ensure access to justice and accountability for all parties and victims. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes the appointment of the Group’s members and calls on all parties to facilitate the work of the Group and abide by its conclusions. ADHRB further calls on the international community to use this moment to press for a conclusion to the three-year conflict.
There have been numerous reports of war crimes in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the actions of the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict, including the blockade which has brought millions of Yemenis to the brink of starvation and famine, while airstrikes have devastated health care infrastructure and civilians areas. Rights groups have also accused Houthi/Saleh forces of potentially committing war crimes, including with the attempted missile attack on Riyadh’s airport in November 2017. Because of widespread rights violations on all sides, states at the HRC have repeatedly called for an international investigation to examine such abuses.
With the passage of the resolution, the members of the Group have a mandate to carry out a “comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and other appropriate and applicable fields of international law.” Among the violations they will examine are the “recruitment and use of children by parties to the armed conflict, arbitrary arrests and detention, denial of humanitarian access and attacks on civilians and civilian objects…. [And] the possible gender dimensions of such violations.” The purpose is to promote accountability, end impunity, and ensure justice and remedy for victims of violations of fundamental rights and freedoms by all parties.
The Group of Eminent Experts is composed of Chairperson Kamel Jendoubi, Melissa Parke, and Charles Garraway. Jendoubi has an extensive history of supporting human rights through his work with organizations such as Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Tunisia’s Independent Higher Electoral Commission, and the World Organisation against Torture. Parke was a Member of the Australian Parliament for nine years, and previously worked with the UN as a senior lawyer. Charles Garraway is currently a fellow at the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, and was also a part of the negotiations for creating the International Criminal Court.
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB: “The passage of the Yemen resolution and establishment of a Group of Eminent Experts is a groundbreaking opportunity to seriously address the widespread human rights violations in Yemen. The international community must seize this moment and press all parties to the conflict to immediately halt hostilities and allow aid organizations access to all parts of Yemen. It must also push the relevant parties to reach a peaceful and sustainable solution to the war. We applaud the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ selection of eminent experts and we look forward to their first report. We strongly urge all parties in the Yemen conflict to cooperate with, and facilitate the work of, the Group.”
ADHRB welcomes and commends the establishment of the Group of Eminent Experts. The crisis in Yemen can be ameliorated with concerted efforts by all involved parties and the full support of the international community. The passage of the UN resolution by consensus and without a vote demonstrates the world recognizes the need for action. Now it is incumbent on the parties to respect the work of the Group and work to ensure everyone is held accountable for all violations of fundamental freedoms.