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With no end to the humanitarian threat posed by the Houthi rebel militia, the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights has published a Preliminary Report on the Human Rights Situation in Yemen. The comprehensive report, composed by the Ministry’s Leadership Council, details the extent of human suffering in Yemen in two years between January 2015 and January 2017, covering the Houthis’ countless breaches of international humanitarian law, be it the targeting of civilians, the recruitment, maiming and killing of children, the denial of education and healthcare or the oppression of basic freedoms.

Yemen’s legitimate President Marshal Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in his foreword to the report, condemns the Houthi and Saleh-supporting militia that have “taken Yemen into a meaningless war, and destroyed its social fabric, economic and financial resources and infrastructure.” President Hadi recounts the turmoil of the militia’s systematic killing of civilians, children and the elderly; kidnappings; disappearances; sieges and suppression of civic freedoms, equating these deplorable terrorising acts with those of Al Qaeda or Da’esh.

Welcoming the intervention of the Arab Coalition in Yemen, the report reiterates President Hadi’s complete support for the military procedures that the Coalition has taken to defend the legitimacy, unity and territorial integrity of the Yemeni state. However, where there have been mistakes in targetting, the report recommends that the facts are investigated and those responsible are held to account.

Mohammed Askar, Yemen’s Vice Minister of Human Rights alo renews his government’s appeal to all international organisations and human rights mechanisms to look carefully at the Yemeni crisis in order to achieve sustainable peace in all parts of Yemen by ending the coup d’état in adherence with  international resolutions, notably UN Resolution 2216.

The appeals reflect those made by H.E. Mohamed Taha Mustafa, the Yemeni ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, who was welcomed to the European Parliament’s Delegations for relations with the Arab Peninsula earlier this month. In his speech, he underlined the disruptive role of the Houthis rebels supported by Iran and their continuous boycott of all attempts to secure the peaceful transition promoted by the legitimate elected government and the Saudi-led coalition. The Ambassador appealed to the European Parliament and EU governments to put pressure on Iran to cease interfering with internal Yemeni affairs and stop supporting the Houthi rebels.

The latest Special Edition of Saudi Arabia in Focus on Yemen covers recent Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian action in country, the Kingdom’s approach to addressing the crisis and the progress being made in combating the threat of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

 

Abdulrahman S. Alahmed

Ambassador and Head of the Saudi Mission to the EU

It was on 19 November 2016 that the command of the Saudi-led Arab alliance in Yemen gave its support to a 48-hour UN-backed ceasefire. The hope was that this respite from the bloodshed would allow for the delivery of sorely needed humanitarian aid across the country. It was also very clear that cessation of hostilities could be extended if the Iran-allied Houthi militia abided by the terms of truce. Importantly, this included allowing the entry of aid to the besieged areas of the war-torn country, particularly Taiz City, Yemen’s third largest city. What was formally the country’s vibrant cultural capital is now almost completely surrounded by the Houthis and their allies. The suffering of the city’s inhabitants is immeasurable.

Ultimately, the aim of the ceasefire was to bring about a permanent and lasting end to the conflict through the reopening of diplomatic channels. Alas, the Pacification Committee of the Yemeni army recorded in excess of 70 breaches of the truce by Houthi forces  its allies in Taiz province, only moments after the ceasefire came into effect. These infringements included shelling with heavy and medium weapons and sniping that wounded two civilians. Militia fired artillery and mortar shells at people’s homes in Al-Salow District and bombed the Al-Tabadud Valley area. Mortar rounds and rockets rained down indiscriminately across the different areas of Taiz City. In total, the ceasefire was broken 563 times in Yemen and 163 times on the Saudi border, a coalition official confirmed.

Beyond the flagrant contravention of the ceasefire terms, Houthi forces have frequently launched missiles into Saudi Arabian territory. On one occasion, the Houthis even went as far as to target the Holy City of Makkah, the holiest site of the Muslim world. When such atrocities are regularly attempted by the Houthis, there can be no foundation of trust on which to base a ceasefire. Saudi Arabia necessarily reserves the right to act with the utmost caution in brokering such ceasefires with the Houthis, bearing in mind that the protection of our own citizens must be our priority.

In a latest development, Houthis and General People’s Congress have unilaterally announced the formation of a new government that had legitimacy or support from the internationally recognised Yemeni government. These actions have been condemned by the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh, who said, the move “represents a new and concerning obstacle to the peace process and does not serve the interests of the people of Yemen in these difficult times.” Equally, the Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher said that Houthis and their allies are “certainly aware that they are undermining U.N. peace efforts when announcing a new government.”

We join Mr Ould Cheikh in his plea to the Houthis and the General People’s Congress to “re-think their approach & demonstrate their commitment to the peace process with concrete actions,” rather than illegitimate and damaging posturing. To end the conflict there must be a withdrawal from occupied cities, and a handing over arms to make way for a much-needed political process and reconstruction of the country.