Extremism fuels Yemen’s woes, says UN rights expert

Despite the bleak picture, Kamel Jendoubi, chairman of the Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen, acknowledged the existence of positive changes.
Sunday 01/03/2020
Kamel Jendoubi, chairman of the Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen.  (Al Arab)
Complex task. Kamel Jendoubi, chairman of the Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen. (Al Arab)

Kamel Jendoubi, chairman of the Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen created by the UN Human Rights Council, said that, every time Yemen gets pulled further into a conflict that has caused one of the greatest human tragedies that humanity has known, there is the Iran-backed Islah party, the Yemeni arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, at the heart of that conflict.

Jendoubi spoke to The Arab Weekly during an international symposium on Yemen, organised in Paris February 13 by ACEM (Arts and Cultures from the Two Shores of the World) and the Thayyizen Association of Yemenis in France.

In previous UN reports, Jendoubi mentioned ethnic and sectarian cleansing practised by the Houthis or by Islah in more than one place in Yemen and on more than one occasion.

The UN Human Rights Special Commission on Yemen is revising its third report, which evaluates progress made by the legitimate Yemeni government in ​​monitoring and reporting human rights violations. Jendoubi pointed out that shortcomings of the first two reports had been corrected.

Jendoubi described his team’s task as difficult and complex because it requires a detailed strategy and a clear methodology. He said that, in the third report, the time period had been expanded and that experts completed what had not been accomplished in the first report by widening the scope of the investigations.

The issue of the use of landmines, for example, was not detailed in the first report, a shortcoming corrected in the second. Also, the first report did not cover the Houthis’ alliance with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2015 and their arrival in and control of Aden nor did it cover human rights violations in Marib. Both topics were dealt with thoroughly and accurately in the second report last year.

What the third report brought was an “accurate updating of the previous violations, in addition to focusing on the issue of famine as an instrument of war and the disastrous situation Yemenis are suffering today,” Jendoubi said.

Despite the bleak picture, he acknowledged the existence of positive changes. He noticed, for example, that, after publication of the first two reports, “a decrease in the number of random and uncontrolled detention centres, especially in the areas under the control of the internationally recognised legitimate authority.” Human rights violations, such as torture and rape, were committed in those centres.

Another result of the previous reports was the liberation of many prisoners who had been arrested and detained arbitrarily and illegally.

“In our recommendations, there is always an emphasis on the necessity of an immediate cessation of hostilities,” Jendoubi said. “We recommend that the special commissioner of the UN Secretary-General should be assisted to succeed in a broader approach to get the rival parties to negotiate and seek a political solution, not a military one, because the real disaster in Yemen is this war which is, every day, widening and deepening the Yemeni wound without enabling any of the warring parties to the conflict to triumph over the others.

“We also always recommend that the settlement process and negotiations do not neglect the humanitarian aspect and that they should not occur at the expense of the civilian victims, knowing that no reconciliation can be built unless there is a transitional justice that protects Yemeni human rights.”

Jendoubi pointed out that any observer of the Yemeni situation can easily note the widespread presence of religious groups that fuel the conflict and in the violation of human rights, starting with the Houthis to Islah, the Salafists, the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, which has a strong presence in the country.

“We are very aware of the issue of religious extremism and religious groups and their internal rivalries, which are fuelling the conflict and the war in Yemen. We have pointed to the issue of ethnic cleansing practised by the Houthis, for example, or by the Islah party in more than one place in Yemen and on more than one occasion,” Jendoubi concluded.

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