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A man carries the coffin of a child at the funeral procession for those killed in an airstrike on a bus carried out last week by a warplane of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on August 13, 2018 in Saada, Yemen.

A man carries the coffin of a child at the funeral procession for those killed in an airstrike on a bus carried out last week by a warplane of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on August 13, 2018 in Saada, Yemen. Fifty-one people, including 40 children, were killed in the attack and at least 79 others were wounded, of which 56 were children, according to published reports. (Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

Civilian Casualties in Yemen Nearly Doubled Since Saudis Backed Ouster of Outside Monitor

"The removal of this crucial human rights investigative body took us back to unchecked, horrific violations," said Erin Hutchinson of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Andrea Germanos

A humanitarian aid group said Thursday that civilian casualties in Yemen have nearly doubled since the end of the sole United Nations-backed independent monitoring group investigating possible rights violations and other abuses in the war-ravaged country.

"With no one to hold perpetrators accountable, civilians will continue to be killed by the thousands and the hardest hit by the escalation of the conflict."

Citing data from the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project, the Norwegian Refugee Council said there were 823 civilian casualties in the four months before the U.N. Human Rights Council's October vote not to renew the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) on Yemen. In the four months that followed, there were 1,535 total civilian casualties.

Total casualties from drone strikes also increased from 3 between June 7 and Oct. 6 compared to 30 in the four-month period ending Feb. 6, according to the group. The number of casualties from airstrikes skyrocketed, jumping from 14 to 547.

"The removal of this crucial human rights investigative body took us back to unchecked, horrific violations," said Erin Hutchinson, the NRC's country director in Yemen, in a Thursday statement.

"Who is responsible for the deaths of these children and families?" she asked. "We will probably never know because there is no longer any independent, international, and impartial monitoring of civilian deaths in Yemen."

Established by the U.N. council in 2017, the GEE has documented widespread violations by all parties to the Yemen conflict, including coalition airstrikes on weddings, funerals, and hospitals and shelling attacks by Houthis into civilian areas.

The October vote drew sharp criticism as well as warnings from human rights groups like Amnesty International, which said the outcome followed "pressure by Saudi Arabia" and other partners carrying out the bombing campaign of Yemen.

The decision not to renew the monitoring body's mandate, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa regional director, said at the time, "is in essence a greenlight to all sides to the conflict to carry on with their egregious violations which have upended the lives of millions of Yemenis over the past years."

NRC's Hutchinson, in her Thursday statement, called on U.N. member states to "urgently reinstate the monitoring body to ensure that parties to the conflict stop committing grave breaches of international humanitarian law with impunity."

"With no one to hold perpetrators accountable," said Hutchinson, "civilians will continue to be killed by the thousands and the hardest hit by the escalation of the conflict."


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