Sukaina Sharafuddin does not seek to embellish her feelings and those of Yemenis after seven years of war. “We are fed up and we are exhausted”explains this humanitarian from the NGO Save the Children. “I can’t imagine the situation getting any worse and yet that’s what will happen, she adds from the capital, Sanaa. We already see children so dehydrated that they can’t even cry anymore. »
→ LARGE FORMAT. In Yemen, child soldiers sent to war
On March 26, 2015, when the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched its first strikes in neighboring Yemen to support the government threatened by the Houthi rebels, the operation should only last a few weeks at most. Today, the UN estimates the death toll at nearly 380,000, most of them having succumbed to indirect factors of the war, such as hunger, disease and lack of drinking water.
The need for an international investigation mechanism
The military intervention, initially led by nine countries but now based on Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent on the United Arab Emirates, has certainly made it possible to stop the Houthi advance in the south and east. But it has not dislodged them from the north of the country, and from Sanaa, taken in 2014. The rebellion, supported by Iran, has even grown bolder, and is increasing attacks on Saudi soil – the last one hit a refinery of the oil giant Aramco on Friday March 25 in Jeddah – and Emirati. Riyadh, aware of this costly stalemate, seeks an “honorable” exit from the rebellion, but continues while waiting for its bombardments.
Over the past few months, the human cost of war has steadily increased. According to the NGO Data Yemen Project, the trend has increased significantly since the non-renewal at the end of October of the UN group of experts (Group of Eminent Experts, GEE), created in 2017 by the Human Rights Council. man, to investigate these violations committed by all parties to the conflict. “Since the dissolution of the EGE, the number of deaths per month has more than tripled to reach 426 killed in January 2022 – the most violent month for four years, explains Iona Craig, of the Data Yemen Project in London. This correlation shows that independent international mechanisms for monitoring violations of international law are an effective deterrent against civilian harm, adds Iona Craig. This is supported by evidence of intensive lobbying by Saudi Arabia to have the EGE’s mandate removed. »
A message of impunity for belligerents
In December, some sixty NGOs alerted the UN to the need to find a mechanism to fill the void left by the EGE, which had issued several strong recommendations during its mandate: an end to the sale of arms and military equipment belligerents, reinforcement of sanctions and referral to the International Criminal Court. “This non-renewal sent a direct message from the international community of impunity to the parties to the conflict who received it very well, denounces Radhya Al Mutawakel of the NGO Mwatana for Human Rights in Sanaa. Financial interests seem more important than people’s lives. Either the States do not want to upset Arabia and the Emirates, or they are ready for it but do not want to go it alone and carry a resolution. »
→ READ. War in Yemen: Paris and Washington to the rescue of the United Arab Emirates
“In all countries at war, there is such a mechanism, even in Syria, says Sherine Tadros of Amnesty International. It takes a State or a group of States to carry this cause, beyond the “extreme concern” expressed by the United States, the United Kingdom or France which are indirectly invested in the conflict, she adds in reference to the weapons sold to Arabia and the Emirates. The war in Yemen is not a forgotten war, as we often hear, it is an ignored war. »
A third of the expected aid collected
Humanitarian organizations also fear that the war in Ukraine will harm Yemen, in terms of food – wheat crisis – and diplomacy. “Right now, the oxygen in the room at the United Nations is taken by Ukraine. This was already the case with Afghanistan, Judge Sherine Tadros. Then it will be up to us to say: what you did for Ukraine in 72 hours can be done for Yemen. »
The latest illustration of this lack of interest: the donors’ conference organized by the UN on March 19 only raised 1.18 billion euros out of the 3.6 billion expected. However, three quarters of Yemenis depend on international aid. “We are suffocatingsays Sukaina Sharafuddin. IInvesting in peace is much more profitable than investing in weapons that kill children. »