Yemen destruction

A Human Rights Catastrophe is Unfolding in Yemen

A human rights catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen and no one is prepared to stop it.

In the last two weeks, violence and instability in Yemen has metastasized at an alarming rate. Each day brings more grim news of civilian casualties

An airstrike on an internally displaced persons camp three days ago killed at least 29 people.

Amnesty says at least six civilians burned to death when a fuel depot was bombed in an airstrike on Monday.

27 people were killed overnight in an explosion at a dairy factory. There’s no confirmation of who was behind this strike.

142 people were killed in Mosque bombing on March 21, likely orchestrated by the Islamic State.

Many aid groups have pulled their staff amid the fighting. Those that remain are not able to bring supplies in, owing to a Saudi-led blockade.  From the NYT

Because of the blockade, Doctors Without Borders, one of the few international aid agencies still functioning in the country, had been unable to reinforce its surgical teams or bring in supplies, Ms. Dekhili said.

“Instead of a surge of humanitarian assistance, the opposite is happening now,” she said.

A similar warning came from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said it was trying to fly in supplies to replenish hospital stocks but had not been able to negotiate the safe arrival of the aircraft.

“We have reached out to absolutely everyone,” said Marie Claire Feghali, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Sana. “We are being delayed, but we continue to push.”

The warnings about the long term consequence of continued violence from outside groups like the United Nations and the International Crisis Group are coming in fast and furious. They could not be more clear about what may befall Yemen should this violence continue unabated. Here’s the top UN Human Rights Official yesterday.

“The situation in Yemen is extremely alarming, with dozens of civilians killed over the past four days,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, echoing a statement issued by UN Secretary-General’s Spokesperson. “The country seems to be on the verge of total collapse,” the High Commissioner said, calling on all sides to protect civilians from harm, and to resolve their differences through dialogue rather than through the use of military force. (Emphasis added)

And here’s an ICG report from last week. 

Without minimum consensus within and beyond its borders, Yemen is headed for protracted violence on multiple fronts. This combination of proxy wars, sectarian violence, state collapse and militia rule has become sadly familiar in the region. Nobody is likely to win such a fight, which will only benefit those who prosper in the chaos of war, such as al-Qaeda and IS. But great human suffering would be certain. An alternative exists, but only if Yemenis and their neighbours choose it. (emphasis added)

That alternative, from the ICG report, is this:

The immediate priority should be a UN Security Council brokered and monitored ceasefire, followed by UN-led peace talks with GCC backing, without preconditions, focusing on the presidency and leaving other power-sharing topics until basic agreement is reached on a single president with one or multiple vice presidents or a presidential council. Agreement on the executive would enable further talk on other aspects of pre-election power sharing in the government and military, and on state structure, particularly the future of the south, where separatist sentiment is strong. Both have been core drivers of conflict since the NDC ended in January 2014.

The problem is there is virtually no interest from the key international players in pursuing this diplomatic option. The parties to the conflict: Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Houthi Rebels, ex-president Saleh, and certainly ISIS and al Qaeda are pursuing their goals through armed conflict. And, if this goes the way the UN and ICG is expecting, we can expect many mire horrid acts of violence perpetrated against civilians.

Yemen combines all the worst aspects of the conflict in Syria: Sectarian violence, local grievances egged on by outside powers, with ISIS and al Qaeda vying for influence.  As always, civilians are caught in the middle. And, like Syria the international community is unable or unwilling to put a halt to the fighting.

The human rights catastrophe that’s unfolding in Yemen shows absolutely no signs of abating. And with basically no key influential international player pressing for a ceasefire, things are only going to get much worse.