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Civilian Deaths Double as UN Removes Human Rights Monitors in Yemen

The United Nations has removed their human rights monitors in Yemen as war continues to rage on.

The purpose of the human rights monitors was to provide an investigative body capable of monitoring and punishing those who abuse human rights. As a consequence, their removal may cause an increase in human rights abuses. In the four months before its removal, there were a recorded 823 civilian casualties, compared to the 1535 casualties in the four months after its removal. With the absence of these monitors, it may be very likely that human rights atrocities will continue to rise.

Erin Hutchinson, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), has urged the UN to bring the monitors back as “the removal of this crucial human rights investigative body took us back to unchecked, horrific violations.” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard has also condemned the decision of the UN, saying, “The people of Yemen have been abandoned. Betrayed. Yet again.” These words speak to the belief that the UN has abandoned the people of Yemen, and that their abandonment of Yemeni civilians will lead to further, unpunished violations of their human rights.

The UN’s decision to remove their human rights monitors is an erroneous, dangerous misstep. For an international body whose mission statement is ‘the maintenance of international peace and security,’ these actions seem at odds with their stated objective. As Agnès Callamard said, the UN has abandoned the civilians in Yemen by removing one of the few tools capable of keeping military actors accountable for human rights abuses. The war in Yemen has been an ongoing conflict since 2014, so why now would the UN see it fit to remove a tool capable of protecting the people. As their mission statement says, they are responsible for maintaining peace, and protection of human rights and should be urged to reconsider their actions before the situation for the civilians gets worse.

The war in Yemen has been an ongoing conflict since 2014 between the Houthi rebels and a Saudi-backed coalition of Gulf states. The conflict started when the rebels captured Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, and then proceeded to seize control of the government, forcing President Hadi to resign. In 2015, the UN attempted to create peace and reinstate the internationally recognized government of Yemen. This was to no avail. Since then, the fighting has worsened as other parties in the region, like Iran, joined the conflict. The conflict has turned into a massive humanitarian crisis and civilians have continued to experience heavy casualties. This crisis has seen a disturbing variety of human rights violations: unlawful airstrikes against the civilian population, ballistic attacks, landmines, and the deployment of child soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Civilians’ everyday lives have turned into war – they enter the battlefield simply by stepping outside their homes. They need effective intervention from an organization like the UN, which has the tools to potentially mitigate the disastrous effects of this conflict.

The oversight of the UN to remove their human rights monitor agency in Yemen will only continue to lead to more civilian casualties as this conflict continues. Given the history of frequent, horrific human rights abuses since the start of the conflict, it is difficult to understand how the removal of a critical accountability measure is justifiable by the UN. The UN must reconsider its decision to better protect the vulnerable citizens in Yemen during this catastrophic crisis.


(c) 2022, The Organization for World Peace


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