UN: Possible violations in Yemen

GENEVA — U.N. human rights experts said Tuesday the governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia may have been responsible for war crimes since Yemen’s conflict intensified 3¢ years ago, including rape, torture, arbitrary detention and use of child soldiers.

Their report — the first since being mandated to investigate by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council nearly a year ago — is increasing international pressure on the Saudis’ Western-backed coalition that already has been widely condemned for devastating airstrikes on civilians as well as combatants.

The U.N. panel also pointed to possible war crimes by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels who have been fighting the coalition that gets support from the U.S., Britain and France.

In one of the first reactions to the report, a Saudi diplomat told The Associated Press that the findings were “not accurate.”

In 2015, Saudi Arabia announced it would lead a coalition of countries against the Houthi rebels who had ousted Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

In the years since then, the U.N. says the conflict has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people in desperate need in what is already the Arab world’s poorest country. The experts documented 6,475 deaths from March 2015 until last June, but said the real figure is likely to be significantly higher. Other groups have estimated that more than 10,000 have been killed — excluding over 2,300 cholera deaths since April 2017 amid pitiful water supplies.

“Despite the severity of the situation, we continue to witness a total disregard of the suffering of the people of Yemen,” said one of the experts, British human rights lawyer Charles Garraway. “This crisis has reached its peak, with no apparent sight of light at the end of the tunnel.”

“It is indeed a forgotten crisis,” he added.

The report said the experts from Britain, Tunisia and Australia have “reasonable grounds to believe that the governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are responsible for human rights violations.”