On Thursday, 11 February 2021, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the political and humanitarian situation in Yemen by a large majority of 638 votes for, 12 against and 44 abstentions. Two days earlier, a debate took place between Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the High Representative/Vice-President (HR/VP) Joseph Borrell, where MEPs strongly condemned the ongoing violence in Yemen since the conflict began, and which has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world -- as echoed in the adopted text.
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and Mwatana for Human Rights call on the European Union (EU) and its Member States to immediately act on the explicit and direct calls made by the European Parliament in the 2021 and 2018 resolutions on Yemen to ensure accountability for perpetrators and to halt all arms exports to, and military cooperation with, all parties to the conflict, restating the calls made by the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (GEE) in their September 2020 report to the Human Rights Council.
CIHRS and Mwatana reiterate their call to states to immediately pursue concrete steps to advance a holistic and credible accountability strategy for Yemen, including pursuing criminal justice for international crimes and reparations for victims. "After six years of war and an array of serious violations, some amounting to international crimes, there has been no credible efforts towards accountability or reparations by any warring party. These are integral to any sustainable political solution in Yemen and must be treated as such by the international community and warring parties," said Radhya al-Mutawakel, Mwatana for Human Rights chairperson.
In the recently adopted resolution, the European Parliament urged the EU and its Member States to use all available tools to hold perpetrators of grave violations to account, including by applying the principle of universal jurisdiction where appropriate. MEPs called on VP/HR Borrell and EU Member States to support Yemeni victims of grave violations and crimes in accessing justice, including by supporting the gathering of evidence for future prosecutions, and to consider the establishment of an independent commission to oversee this process. The resolution further called for the EU to impose targeted sanctions through its Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, such as travel bans and asset freezes, on officials and perpetrators of grave violations during the conflict in Yemen, including those from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran.
In addition, MEPs called on the EU and its Member States to take "resolute action" towards a UN Security Council referral of the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and to expand the list of persons (perpetrators of grave violations and crimes) subject to Security Council sanctions. It also called on the Human Rights Council, composed of Member States including from the EU, to continue to renew the mandate of the GEE and provide it with sufficient resources to carry out its mandate effectively, including the collecting, keeping and analysing of information related to violations and crimes.
The resolution accurately highlighted the role of EU-based arms exporters in fueling the conflict in Yemen over the years, contrary to the legally binding European Common Position on arms exports. In this regard, MEPs reiterated the Parliament's call for an EU-wide ban on the export, sale, update and maintenance of any security equipment to all members of the Saudi/UAE-led coalition and to halt the export of arms.
Sarah Al-Areqi, Mashriq sub-region Researcher on Iraq and Yemen at CIHRS, recalls "states that supply arms to parties to the conflict, including to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, may be violating their obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty and international law, which may amount to aiding and assisting internationally wrongful acts committed in Yemen". As such, "European countries must promptly implement arms bans and quickly revoke all export licenses permanently. This is imperative to support a genuine ceasefire and an end to attacks in Yemen" added Al-Areqi.
Lastly, the resolution called on all parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, end attacks on civilians and minority groups, and to facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief and access to medical facilities. MEPs called on parties to refrain from using starvation as a method of warfare, amounting to an international crime; to protect children against recruitment; and to immediately cease all forms of attacks against freedom of expression, including detention, enforced disappearance and intimidation, and to release all detained journalists and human rights defenders.
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Mwatana for Human Rights