NEGOTIATIONS for an end to the conflict in Yemen should include plans for a post-conflict justice that is inclusive and victim-centred, and includes provisions for accountability, reparations, and redress, say more than 40 Yemeni organisations.

Civil society organisations and associations of Yemeni victims and survivors issued the Yemen Declaration for Justice and Reconciliation on 26 July. The declaration sets forth their common vision for achieving justice and reconciliation in post-conflict Yemen.

“Parties to the conflict and the international community have comprehensively failed to address the widespread human rights violations perpetrated throughout this conflict”, said Niku Jafarnia, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The parties to the conflict, the UN special envoy and the broader international community should ensure that any further peace negotiations actively include civil society and use this Declaration as a roadmap for a post-conflict justice process.”

The Saudis and the Houthis have been in negotiations for a possible peace deal for several months now, though the negotiations have reportedly stalled over the issue of payment of government salaries. Other parties to the conflict have not been included in these negotiations. Yemeni civil society has been largely excluded from these and other peace and ceasefire negotiations during the nearly decade-long war, and human rights issues have been consistently sidelined or ignored.

Since the conflict began in 2014, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have documented widespread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Saudi and UAE-led coalition, intervening on behalf of the government, destroyed and damaged civilian infrastructure, including homes, medical facilities, schools, markets, and water and food sources and infrastructure. Some of its actions may amount to war crimes.

The Houthis, who control the capital and much of the rest of the country, have fired mortars, rockets, and missiles into densely populated areas both in Yemen and in Saudi Arabia, in other possible war crimes, and have laid landmines in civilian areas across the country. Both parties have arbitrarily detained, disappeared, and tortured people and have blocked access to humanitarian aid.

Throughout the nine years of conflict, parties to the conflict as well as the UN and powerful countries have failed to hold rights violators accountable. Under customary international law, warring parties are obligated to provide “full reparation for the loss or injury caused” for their violations of international humanitarian law.

But as Mwatana for Human Rights, an independent Yemeni organisation, and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic have demonstrated, the warring parties have failed to effectively provide reparations. Furthermore, since the 2021 disbanding of the UN Human Rights Council-mandated monitoring body, the Group of Eminent Experts, there has been no independent, international monitoring or investigation of rights violations in Yemen.

The Yemen Declaration for Justice and Reconciliation seeks to address this gap in accountability for the grievances caused by the war by identifying a set of principles to guide the post-conflict justice process. The Declaration emphasises the need for Yemen’s post-conflict justice process to be inclusive of civil society organisations, women, children, marginalised groups, and victims and survivors of rights abuses.

It also advocates a victim-centred approach, gender equality and inclusivity, truth and memorialisation, redress and reparations, accountability, reconciliation, social cohesion, and the prevention of future violence. Furthermore, it emphasises the universality of human rights, and calls for applying international law to “inform peace negotiations, a political settlement, and a post-conflict justice process.”

“Addressing justice and accountability for the abuses in Yemen during the nine years of conflict is long past due”, Jafarnia said. “As negotiations continue, and as countries prepare for the September Human Rights Council session, it is critical for them to address civil society’s demands as laid out in the Declaration.”

* Read: The Yemen Declaration for Justice and Reconciliation here.

* Source: Human Rights Watch