Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen in the UN Security Council Arria-formula meeting on the latest report of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen, December 3

03.12.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

Yemen is too often a forgotten conflict. We have to see to it that it is not forgotten. I think our Arria meeting today contributes to this.

The scale and the nature of violations should really shock the conscience of humanity. The report by the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts (GEE) on Yemen provides for so many examples such as enlisted child soldiers as young as seven years old. We read about the airstrikes on civilians and attacks on hospitals and schools and about impeding humanitarian assistance. We have atrocious accounts of sexual violence and torture. The GEE report reads like a story line straight from hell.

I think we were all moved, and we heard this from many ambassadors and representatives, by the story of a Amal that Melissa [Parke] brought to us.

Bear with me, but I think one needs to cite concrete examples to see the dimension of what is happening in the country. And from the GEE report, I cite an example of Houthi torturing in Taiz. I quote, “We verified that 14 men and one boy had been subjected to torture. Methods included repeated and severe beatings with sticks, electric cables or iron bars, electrocution, removal of fingernails, the electrocution and beating of genitals with threats of sterilization, forced nudity and solitary confinement.” Those tortured included human rights activists, educators and legal professionals.

Regarding the government of Yemen, the GEE states the cases of five men and two boys detained in Marib who and I quote again, “had been subjected to torture, including suspension in painful positions, crawling on broken glass and screws, beating and electrocution of genitals with threats of sterilization and the burning of genitals.”

I quote these examples, although it hurts to hear this, because we need to hear, we need to listen and we need to act. I would like to thank the GEE for providing one of the rare sources of independent information in a conflict that has resulted in the world's worst humanitarian crisis, in a land reigned by impunity, reckless violence and lawlessness. This testimony, your work, underlines from our perspective once more the importance of independent expert groups such as yours, mandated by the UN. It also stresses the need to strengthen the link between Geneva [Human Rights Council] and New York [Security Council]. There have been several speakers who clearly made the link between human rights and security.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has made it clear that there can be no peace without an inclusive political process. An inclusive political process is only possible when all parties are respecting human rights and international humanitarian law. As I said in an earlier intervention, some parties to the conflict say that the GEE is biased. I think the first step is that you actually are allowed access to the country, access to the coalition countries, so that you get all the relevant information which you have been denied despite repeated requests for the second consecutive year.

Germany totally agrees that in order to stop the ongoing infringements, also with a view to reconciliation and to come together for a political process, it takes accountability. It is not easy, but when we hear all these horrifying human rights violations, we need to make sure that there is accountability and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. We need this for the victims. We need this also for reconciliation in the country. And we need it to prevent further atrocities to happen, because if the perpetrators know that they get away with what they are doing, they will continue. As I have said on many occasions with regard to the Syria conflict, some of the perpetrators of the worst human rights violation are now standing trial. I think this is very important.

So we have to bring this discussion back to the Security Council. I think many members of the Security Council, including future members, agree on that. More has to be done. More concrete action must be taken also with regard to sanctions, with regard to accountability, and I would urge you that we continue this debate in the formal meeting of the Security Council.


Top of page