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Posted Wed 2 Dec 2020

Arria-Formula meeting with the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen

On Thursday afternoon (3 December), Security Council members will participate in a virtual Arria-formula meeting with the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts (GEE), established by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in September 2017 to report on the human rights situation in Yemen. The chair of the GEE, Kamel Jendoubi (Tunisia), is expected to present the findings of this year’s annual report of the GEE. Its other experts—Melissa Parke (Australia) and Ardi Imseis (Canada)—are also expected to address Council members, followed by an interactive discussion between the GEE and members. The meeting is closed to non-Council members (with the exception of the incoming members: Ireland, India, Kenya, Mexico and Norway). Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia and Germany are co-hosting the session, which is also co-sponsored by Ireland.

The GEE released its third annual report in September. In October, the HRC renewed the mandate of the GEE, which includes carrying out comprehensive investigations into all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014.

This year’s report—which is supplemented by an even more detailed Conference Room Paper—is titled “Yemen: A Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land”. Summarising its findings, and as recalled in the concept note that the co-sponsors prepared for tomorrow’s meeting, the GEE writes that “the parties to the conflict continue to show no regard for international law or the lives, dignity, and rights of people in Yemen, while third States have helped to perpetuate the conflict by continuing to supply the parties with weapons”. The report asserts that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that the Yemeni government, the Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the separatist Southern Transitional Council have committed and continue to commit serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, some which may amount to war crimes—conclusions that build on and are similar to the GEE’s previous findings. The report further notes that notwithstanding its previous recommendations, states, including Canada, France, Iran, the UK and the US, help to perpetuate the conflict by continuing to supply the parties with weapons.

Among its recommendations, the GEE says that the Security Council should refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court and expand the list of persons subject to Security Council sanctions to combat impunity in the conflict. The GEE writes that it supports the establishment of a criminally-focused investigation body, similar to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, to conduct further investigations and prepare case files to be shared with relevant prosecutorial authorities. The GEE further recommends, as it did in its previous two reports, that the Security Council integrate the human rights dimensions of the conflict in Yemen more fully into its agenda.

According to the concept note, “the GEE is a unique and necessary source of information, allowing the UN system as a whole—including the UN Security Council—to deliver its mandate more effectively”. The co-sponsors recall that “[t]he violation of human rights is a key driver of conflict”, and that “[a]ddressing this driver of conflict, including through prevention and accountability, is a necessary element of any sustainable peace process in the country”.

The main objective of the Arria-formula is to allow the GEE to brief Security Council members directly on its latest findings and recommendations. According to the concept note, Council members are invited to focus their interventions on how the human rights dimension of the conflict in Yemen can be better integrated in the agenda of the Council, and in mediation and peace processes. Members are also invited to focus on how to strengthen prevention, increase accountability for perpetrators, and further promote justice and the rule of law in Yemen, in cooperation with all relevant parties. The concept note further sets out a series of other issues for consideration during the meeting:

  • How can the Council contribute to ending and preventing continued violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, including impediments to humanitarian access?
  • How can the Office of the Special Envoy for Yemen, the Council and the wider UN system support the national authorities in Yemen to end and prevent sexual and gender-based violence, in particular in detention conditions? How can the Security Council and other UN actors make sure that investigations into violations and responses are gender-sensitive, taking into account the different experiences of women and men?
  • How can the Office of the Special Envoy for Yemen, the Council and the wider UN system contribute to ending and preventing grave violations against children affected by armed conflict in Yemen?
  • How can the UN in general and specifically the Security Council support accountability for the most serious crimes, including serious violations and abuses of human rights, as well as access to justice and the right to fair trial in Yemen? What are best practices to ensure humane detention conditions in line with international human rights law?
  • What efforts can the Security Council make to guarantee a political process towards peace that includes the meaningful participation of women, from diverse backgrounds? How can the Security Council provide support to women peacebuilders and women human rights defenders in Yemen?
  • What expectations does the Security Council have vis-à-vis other (international) actors, including civil society organisations, with regard to the above-mentioned questions?

Building on these questions, members may emphasise the importance of accountability, portrayed by the GEE as sorely absent in the conflict that it maintains is characterised by “endemic impunity”. Among other issues, members are likely to raise concerns about the disturbing gender-based and sexual violence, covered by the GEE and depicted in recent reports of the Yemen Panel of Experts that supports the 2140 Sanctions Committee, including a Houthi network that has repressed women critical of the Houthis. In light of new UN warnings about the risk of famine, members may be keen on exploring with the GEE restrictions on humanitarian access. Some members are likely to raise key points from tomorrow’s discussion at the Council’s briefing on Yemen scheduled for 14 December.

Organisation of this Arria-formula meeting follows an unsuccessful attempt last year to have Jendoubi brief on the GEE’s annual report at the Council’s monthly meeting on Yemen. The proposal, put forward by Peru, was scuttled following strong lobbying in the week ahead of the Council meeting by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In its place, the UK hosted an informal meeting at its mission for the GEE to brief members.