U.S. and E.U. Based NGOs Highlight Obstacles and Recommendations Regarding Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen
25 April 2017
Mr. Stephen O’Brien
Undersecretary for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief
U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Subject: Humanitarian Needs in Yemen, Obstacles, Recommendations
Dear Mr. O’Brien,
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, write this letter to provide you with information regarding the humanitarian needs in Yemen and recommendations to obstacles that may stand in the way of a just and equitable distribution of humanitarian aid. Before we do so, we would like to thank you for your ongoing efforts to not only bring to light, but to alleviate, the massive civilian suffering caused by the armed conflict in Yemen. We also take note of and commend the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) continual improvements in the accuracy of its reporting in Yemen despite all the challenges and dangers posed by the conflict.
On the occasion of the High Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, we would like to reiterate our shared concerns and provide some points for your consideration. As you stated in your updates to the U.N. Security Council, the difficulty in offloading cargo at Yemen’s ports, particularly Hodeidah port, is because of 1) inefficient port management, 2) financial disputes among shippers, 3) restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led Coalition such as the hampering of vessels’ access to Yemeni Red Sea ports, 4) the absence of clear lists of prohibited items, 5) restrictions imposed by the de facto authorities, and above all 5) slow offloading due to limited capacity at Hodeida port which was severely damaged by airstrikes in August 2015. Although a step in the right direction, the U.N. Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) established a year ago is having difficulty in ensuring a steady flow of commercial and humanitarian imports because the abovementioned restrictions remain in place. For example, World Food Programme mobile cranes which are arguably the most essential import to speed up offloading and thereby delivery of humanitarian aid, are being prevented from entry.
Given these challenges and based on our work on the ground, we believe the following recommendations should be taken into consideration:
- Internationally, states must not continue to fuel the conflict. Famine must not be used as a weapon of war. Political and diplomatic pressure must be brought to bear on all sides to restart peace talks.
- Regionally, the Saudi Coalition must be informed and held to account for abusing U.N. Security Resolutions 2140 and 2216 with the restrictions they have imposed on entry of food, medicine and fuel into Yemen. While U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 may have been intended as a “smart” coercive measure designed to place an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on five specifically named individuals, the Coalition’s actual use transformed U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 into a “comprehensive” coercive measure that violates the human rights of millions of Yemenis, particularly their right to food, medicine and fuel which has brought millions in Yemen to the brink of famine. Utilizing legal pressure on the Saudi Coalition may be the right prescription to ensure restrictions are lifted.
- Locally, the Hadi government-in-exile must be pressured to fulfill the mandate of the Central Bank of Yemen with respect to not only the payment of public sector salaries but the resumption of facilities that underwrite transactions for the import of basic necessities by all merchants in Yemen. We reiterate your concern that humanitarian aid cannot, by itself, cover the needs of the population and that the international community must, in addition, demand the unfettered entry of commercial imports into Yemen’s ports.
- In order to respond effectively to the dire humanitarian situation, we are of the opinion that no funds should be allocated to any political parties or affiliates but rather have the funds managed by UN agencies.
Again, we thank you for your efforts in hosting the pledging event on Yemen and hope that you are successful in not only raising the required funds and purchasing the humanitarian supplies that are required but also being able to deliver them to those who need them across all governorates.
Arabian Rights Watch Association (US)
Human Rights for Yemen (UK)
INSAN for Human Rights and Peace (Germany)
Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights (UK)
Cc: U.N. Secretary General
The Office of the High Commissioner
Permanent Mission of Sweden
Permanent Mission of Switzerland
39 NGOs Send Letter to President Trump Urging the US Not to Support A Saudi Coalition Offensive on al-Hudaydah Port
April 4, 2017
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump,
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, have learned that the White House is expected to sign off on the Pentagon’s request for the United States to support the Saudi- and Emirati-led offensive to take control of the seaport and city of al-Hudaydah, which is currently controlled by the Houthi-Saleh alliance.  It is our understanding that a major attack on al-Hudaydah is therefore imminent. In addition to providing support for the coalition in the forms of “surveillance, intelligence, refueling and operational planning,” your administration is also reportedly considering direct US military engagement against the Houthis as part of this offensive. We urge you to withhold American support for any offensive against al-Hudaydah.
Speaking in Washington last week, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, clearly said that it is the UN’s position that “no military operations should be undertaken” in al-Hudaydah. The International Rescue Committee warned, “any disruption of these port facilities would have a catastrophic impact on the people of Yemen – denying food and medicine to civilians already suffering immeasurably.”
Seventy percent of imports and humanitarian aid enter the country through al-Hudaydah. Escalating the conflict in this part of the country will cut off that lifeline and threaten the lives of millions of Yemeni civilians, particularly the 7.3 million already on the brink of famine. Should the coalition move forward with the offensive, thousands of civilians are likely to be killed, injured, and displaced. The UN reports that the Saudi-led coalition’s efforts to capture smaller cities on the Red Sea coast have already displaced more than 48,000 civilians.
US participation in this offensive not only risks further US complicity in the coalition's violations of international humanitarian law and possible war crimes, but also risks embroiling the US in a costly military campaign with little to no chance of strategic victory, and exacerbating security vacuums that extremist groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are eager to fill. US and coalition escalation against the Houthis is also likely to increase Iranian influence in Yemen. Iran views the rebel movement as a cheap ally in its drive to indirectly confront Saudi Arabia. While Iran has little to lose from the US escalating military involvement in Yemen, America’s entrapment in Yemen’s civil war would benefit Iran substantially.
The planned offensive will provide limited strategic benefits for the coalition and erode the possibility of a political settlement, while imposing a potentially unbearable burden on the Yemeni people. We urge you to withhold support for the offensive and pressure the coalition to prevent the offensive from going forward.
American Friends Service Committee
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Arab Center for the Promotion of Human Rights (ACPHR)
Arabian Rights Watch Association (ARWA)
Center for International Policy
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
Global Progressive Hub
The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Institute of Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
The Interfaith Peace Network of WNY
Just Foreign Policy
Massachusetts Peace Action
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Peace Action New York State
People Demanding Action
Progressive Democrats of America
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities
United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ)
US Labor Against the War
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice
Win Without War
WNY Peace Center
Women's Action for New Directions
Women's International League for Peace & Freedom US Section
Yemen Peace Project (YPP)
 Chicago Tribune, “With Trump approval, Pentagon expands warfighting authority,” 2 April 2017. Available at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-trump-pentagon-war-20170402-story.html
 The Hill, “Trump signals deeper involvement in Yemen,” 1 April 2017. Available at: http://thehill.com/policy/defense/326767-trump-signals-deeper-us-involvement-in-yemen
 The Washington Post, “Trump weighs deeper involvement in Yemen war,” 26 March 2017. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-administration-weighs-deeper-involvement-in-yemen-war/2017/03/26/b81eecd8-0e49-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.433b3e9e6534
 Reuters, “U.N. special envoy warns against military operation on Yemen port,” 31 March 2017. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-un-idUSKBN1722MW
 International Rescue Committee, “Bombing port in Yemen further humanitarian catastrophe,” 31 March 2017. Available at: https://www.rescue.org/press-release/bombing-port-yemen-would-further-humanitarian-catastrophe
 UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Yemen: Escalating Conflict – Western Coast Situation Report No. 3,” 10 March 2017. Available at: http://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-escalating-conflict-western-coast-situation-report-no-3-10-march-2017-enar
 Fox News, “Warning to the Trump administration: Be careful about Yemen,” 28 February 2017. Available at: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/02/28/warning-to-trump-administration-be-careful-about-yemen.html
 Just Security, “Hitting Iran Where It Doesn’t Hurt: Why U.S. Intervention in Yemen Will Backfire,” 8 March 2017. Available at: https://www.justsecurity.org/38543/hitting-iran-doesnt-hurt-u-s-intervention-yemen-backfire/
NGOs Send Letter to President Obama Calling for Discussion of Human Rights at GCC Summit
18 April 2016
Mr. Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
This month during your visit to Riyadh, you will undoubtedly reaffirm the “longstanding friendship” between the US and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Although your administration has made the security of the Gulf region a key priority, it has increasingly emphasized defense cooperation over commitments to human rights and democratic reform. In the absence of what you described as “legitimate political outlets for grievances,” the Gulf States will continue to face a heightened risk of internal instability. At the summit this month, the undersigned organizations therefore call on you to again urge GCC leaders to promote domestic stability through the full realization of human rights and a free and independent civil society.
GCC leadership is continuing down a worrying path away from reform. On 2 January 2016, King Salman approved the execution of 47 individuals in Saudi Arabia, including prominent human rights and social activist Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. Sheikh Nimr advocated for peaceful reform within Saudi society and called for equality among the kingdom’s citizens. Saudi Arabia continues to hold at least three individuals on death row for crimes they allegedly committed as minors; one of these individuals is Ali al-Nimr, Sheikh Nimr’s nephew. He could be executed at any time for his involvement in pro-reform protests in the kingdom’s Eastern Province.
In Bahrain, the al-Khalifa monarchy has intensified its repression of peaceful political opposition and free expression. On 14 March 2016, Bahraini authorities incarcerated human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja and her 15-month-old son on charges related to her exercise of peaceful dissent. Bahraini authorities continue to arbitrarily detain thousands of political prisoners on charges that violate their right to free expression, including human rights defenders Abduljalil al-Singace, Sheikh Ali Salman, Fadhel Abbas, and Hassan Mushaima. The government has also escalated its broad use of citizenship revocation and forced deportation as punishment for political dissent, particularly targeting the country’s Shia communities.
The Government of the UAE, similarly, has continued to arbitrarily detain and even disappear perceived dissidents, including American and Canadian citizens. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti authorities have worked to stifle political discourse by prohibiting speech that is critical of any GCC countries. Cybercrime laws across the GCC further codify the repression of free speech by expanding systemic online censorship, which particularly restricts the work of journalists and bloggers. Although the governments of the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar have recently instituted nominal reforms to the internationally-criticized kafala system, millions of migrant workers continue to experience exploitation and inhumane living conditions in the GCC, entrenched in an employer-tied visa system in which individuals are highly vulnerable to forced labor and human trafficking, often unable to end their contractual work or escape situations of exploitation or violence. GCC countries have done little to nothing to extend basic protections to domestic workers, despite high profile cases of abuse.
Finally, during King Salman’s last visit to Washington, you yourself noted that the US shares the GCC’s concerns regarding the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen – even as the Saudi-led coalition stands accused of violating international humanitarian law in that country. Since your remarks in 2015, the US-backed military intervention has contributed to thousands of civilian casualties and the forced displacement of an estimated 2.4 million Yemeni citizens.
Given your administration’s professed commitments to human rights and democracy in the region, the US has both a unique opportunity and a clear responsibility to promote human rights reforms in the GCC. As recently demonstrated by the Qatari emir’s decision to pardon the imprisoned poet Mohammed al-Ajami, international pressure to improve human rights can achieve remarkable results when actually employed. If your administration truly seeks security and stability in the Gulf, it must hold its partners accountable to the highest international standards, and encourage the GCC to reassess its restrictive policies towards human rights.
The respect for human rights will lay the foundation for stability in the Gulf. We therefore call on your administration to raise human rights and democratic political reform with the GCC leadership during your upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia. We particularly encourage you to call for the release of all political prisoners of conscience in GCC countries, including human rights defenders, journalists, members of political opposition, labor leaders, and peaceful protesters. We urge you to advocate for the development of free and independent civil society within the GCC member states by calling for the implementation of meaningful legal reforms, which may further promote freedom and stability within the broader Middle East region.
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Arabian Rights Watch Association (ARWA)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Center for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO)
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Reporters Without Borders
Saudi Organization for Rights and Freedoms (SAORF)
Yemen Peace Project
LORD AVEBURY RESPONDS WITH LETTER TO TOBIAS ELLWOOD, ESQ MP
From Lord Avebury P1511101
October 11, 2015
I attach a copy of a letter from Mr Ahmed Alshami, Director of the NGO Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights, about the recent discussion at the Human Rights Council of violations of war crimes in Yemen, and the adoption by consensus of a resolution tabled by Saudi Arabia (“Resolution”.
It is alleged that we did a deal with Saudi Arabia to support their membership of the Human Rights Council (“HRC”) if they supported us, see http://bit.ly/1LpqFyNand , and this has not been denied. The Prime Minister defended our links with Saudi Arabia in his interview with Jon Snow on the basis that intelligence they passed to us allowed us to thwart a bomb attack that terrorists were planning in the UK. I think it would be a shoddy bargain if we relinquish the right to criticise Saudi violations of human rights as a quid pro quo for intelligence, the details of which aren’t open to public scrutiny because they are covered by security. In particular, this bargain appears to have meant that we supported the Resolution, rather than the one tabled by the Netherlands.
The Resolution is seriously flawed, because it calls for action by the Hadi government, which has no presence on the ground that would enable it to comply. It also flies in the face of demands from within the UN system (eg http://bit.ly/1VMhEGZ and from a wide spectrum of NGOs, (http://bit.ly/1OsiFj9), that the investigation of alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law should be conducted by a UN inquiry and should cover abuses by all actors in Yemen and not just by certain local parties (http://bit.ly/1R5W2i6). It was for this reason that the US at first supported the Netherlands proposal, which satisfied this requirement, only falling into line when it appeared that the Arab states were solidly behind the Saudis, and were even against a suggestion that amendments to it could be tabled and debated. Placing the matter in the hands of the National Commission ‘set up by a fugitive in a foreign capital who called for a war on his own people’ will not be acceptable to the people of Yemen, or to any of the responsible international human rights NGOs who have commented on the HRC decision. It would have been preferable for the HRC not to have reached this consensus which ignores the key role played by Saudi Arabia in a major humanitarian and human rights disaster.
Tobias Ellwood Esq MP,
Foreign & Commonwealth Office,
London SW1A 2AH
NGOS SUBMIT LETTER TO LORD ERIC AVEBURY
10 October 2015
House of Lords
RE: WITHDRAWAL OF NETHERLAND’S DRAFT RESOLUTION ON SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN YEMEN
Dear Lord Avebury,
Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights would like to direct your attention to the draft resolution on the human rights situation in Yemen that was tabled by the Netherlands in the 30th session of the UNHRC and the opposing resolution that was tabled by Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni government in exile.
As for the draft resolution tabled by Saudi Arabia (“Resolution), we are deeply concerned with its text given both the impracticality of implementation and lack of neutrality. During the session, we urged the Council to reject the Resolution or open the floor for amendments that would include the establishment of an international independent commission of inquiry. Despite these calls by many present NGOs and the member states themselves, the Council adopted the Resolution by consensus.
We express our deep regret and sincere disappointment with the decision to withdraw the draft resolution tabled by the Netherlands. Our reservations with the Resolution include, but are not limited to, the acknowledgement of Hadi’s Presidential Decree No. 13, which calls for the establishment of a National Commission that will not meet international standards. Moreover, there are no legal grounds for the establishment of a National Commission by a government in exile. The legislature, the judiciary and the executive should facilitate the implementation of these obligations and given that the Hadi government is not functioning on the ground, it cannot carry out its duty of investigations in Yemen. In addition, the National Commission is plagued with bias as evidenced by the decree itself as it will only investigate and prosecute crimes committed by certain local parties without any reference to the crimes being committed by the Coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
We bring to your attention that we are very keen on protecting the human rights of every person in Yemen and therefore we are calling for an international independent investigation into the crimes committed by all parties to the conflict and to table the resolution under Item 4 in the 31st session of the UNHRC.
We call on every member state to consider these points and the plight of the Yemeni people. To be more balanced in the approach to Yemeni internal affairs by calling for an independent international commission of inquiry into all laws of war violations committed by all parties to the conflict, not just one side, all or none. Recognizing a National Commission set up by a fugitive in a foreign capital who called for a war on his own people, will not be acceptable to the people of Yemen. Only a truly independent neutral arbiter, such as an international commission of inquiry, would get the buy-in of the people.
Therefore we call on you and all member states of the UNHRC to consider the following:
1. A more balanced approach to any resolution pertaining to the deteriorating human rights situation in Yemen; to ensure all references to previous resolutions and decrees regarding commissions either name all parties and sides to the conflict specifically or make a general reference to “all parties to the conflict”
2. Inclusion of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement, the last signed agreement allowing for all parties and factions to participate in a political solution that was welcomed by the UN and expected to be implemented without delay
3. Replacing the National Commisssion with an independent international neutral just Commission of Inquiry into the violations of the laws of war and support for terrorism committed by any and all parties to the conflict
We thank you for your careful consideration and look forward to meeting you in the near future.