Yemen airstrike victims

Yemeni medical teams carry body bags containing the remains of people killed in U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes on a prison in northern Yemen on January 25, 2022.

(Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Groups Demand Accountability for War Crimes in US-Backed Saudi-Led War in Yemen

"A long-lasting peace can only be achieved by addressing past atrocities and responding to current demands for justice."

Over 40 international and local civil society groups on Wednesday called for accountability for all perpetrators of war crimes during the nearly nine-year civil war and U.S.-backed Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, as well as reconciliation, redress, and reparations for victims of the conflict that's claimed nearly 400,000 lives and upended millions more.

The groups' Yemen Declaration for Justice and Reconciliation "sets out principles we believe are necessary to advancing the human rights of all people in Yemen, as well [as] achieving a just, inclusive, and sustainable peace for Yemen."

"A successful justice and reconciliation process will require planning, time, resources, and extensive consultations," the declaration states. "We call for regional and international action to support these justice demands. We believe that it is crucial to advance discussions on justice in Yemen as soon as possible, and that delaying the process further will prolong the suffering of victims and affected persons."

"The absence of justice maintains the causes of conflict unresolved, and risks triggering future conflict and suffering," the publication continues. "We acknowledge that a long-lasting peace can only be achieved by addressing past atrocities and responding to current demands for justice. Neglecting past grievances has contributed significantly to the ongoing conflict, and we call on all stakeholders to avoid similar errors in the future."

To that end, the endorsing organizations are calling on the international community to center a "set of guiding principles that unite our pursuit for justice." These include:

  • Participation of all stakeholders—including women, youth, minorities, people with disabilities, marginalized groups, victims and survivors of rights abuses, and civil society organizations—in Yemen's peace process and political future;
  • Commitment to expanding and strengthening the capacity and role of victims and affected persons in discussions concerning justice and peace in Yemen, including peace negotiations and political settlements;
  • A transitional process that recognizes and respects the full human rights of women within Yemeni society, and a political process that is inclusive of women's voices and experiences;
  • Redress and reparations for material and moral losses and harm suffered by all victims and other affected people;
  • Independent, impartial, and fair accountability for all crimes under international humanitarian and human rights law committed in Yemen; and
  • A post-conflict process that seeks to end cyclical violence in Yemen, and achieves social cohesion and reconciliation.

As declaration signatory Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted Wednesday:

Throughout the nearly nine-year conflict in Yemen, parties to the conflict have perpetrated widespread violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, causing extensive civilian harm. Some of the grievances the declaration highlights include the parties to the conflicts' perpetration of indiscriminate attacks, the use of torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, the proliferation of landmines, forced displacement, and the infliction of psychological harm. Thus far, none of these grievances have been sufficiently addressed by parties to the conflict or by the international community.

"Addressing justice and accountability for the abuses in Yemen during the nine years of conflict is long past due," HRW Yemen and Bahrain researcher Niku Jafarnia said in a statement. "As negotiations continue, and as countries prepare for the September Human Rights Council session, it is critical for them to address civil society's demands as laid out in the declaration."

HRW and other groups have documented human rights crimes committed by the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni government forces, as well as the Houthi rebels they're fighting and the U.S. forces conducting raids and airstrikes in the so-called War on Terror.

According to United Nations humanitarian officials, nearly 400,000 people have died during the Yemeni war, and a Saudi-led blockade has exacerbated starvation and disease in the country of 30 million people—more than 23 million of whom required assistance in 2022.

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