Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen in the UN Security Council VTC Meeting on Yemen, December 14, 2020

14.12.2020 - Speech

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It is the last time we and the other four elected members who joined two years ago will speak in the Security Council on Yemen. I want to confirm that Germany will continue to be engaged – be it as one of the major humanitarian donors and also on the political process as part of P5+4. When we joined the UNSC two years ago, it was just after the Stockholm Agreement and we were all very hopeful that the situation in Yemen would improve and that the country would have a better future ahead of it. But as Martin [Griffiths – SESG] said in his opening statement today talking about the last year, “It was a grim year.”

We have to be realistic and we have to admit that over the last two years, the situation has not improved, but has rather deteriorated. Every time when we thought that we had reached a new low, it got even worse. Special Envoy Griffiths always remained optimistic, but his briefings became more depressing over time and his call for a political solution remains unheard. We have been discussing the Joint Declaration time and again, but no progress has been made. This Joint Declaration will only be the start of a real political process.

Also, during the last two years, we did not make any progress on FSO Safer. We heard again and again that the Houthis were ready to accept a deal, that the UN team could assess FSO Safer. It is just totally irresponsible that they have not granted access and that we have not been able to this problem, which is a potential nightmare for the region.

I am very happy, Martin [Griffiths], that you remain, to a certain degree optimistic and that you want to convene the parties to a physical meeting.  We hope that this will work. But again, we hear from you that things don't progress. Unfortunately, there is still the wide-held belief that there can be a military solution to this crisis. Hostilities continue both in the north and the south. We hear that the Houthis continue to attack Saudi Arabia, continue to attack Aramco. Mark Lowcock mentioned  further airstrikes and the fighting continues by all parties of the Houthis, the Yemeni government, the coalition.

The victims of all this are civilians. Thousands have been killed, injured, maimed. We heard also from Hudaydah about totally senseless attacks where, again, civilians have been killed. The population is starved to death. The Houthis over these last two years have reached new heights in their inhumanity, depriving the population of humanitarian help provided by OCHA and in particular the World Food Programme. How brutal can you be to your own population that you don't allow them to be provided with humanitarian aid?

Germany highlighted the human suffering and we brought civil society voices to the Council. I am very grateful, Martin Griffiths, for your continuous efforts to talk to civil society, to  women's groups, and to journalists. The inclusion of civil society is very important. In July, we brought Raja Almasabi to the Security Council and she highlighted the fate of persons with disabilities. She sent a message to all the parties, also to us: “You can do more. You can do better.”

This brings me back to one of my key topics, which is humanitarian aid. We made an appeal to those who have not committed to the Humanitarian Response Plan 2020. We are, according to OCHA figures, at 48 percent. In our press statement that we adopted over the weekend, the Security Council appealed to the countries in the region again to step up their responsibility. When we look at the figures of the contribution of countries in the region last year: Saudi Arabia, $750 million in 2019, the UAE $750 million in 2019. This year, Saudi Arabia is still number 2 with $300 million, but the UAE is still at zero dollars when it comes to the Humanitarian Response Plan. What does this mean in practice? According to the latest IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) analysis if the situation doesn't improve dramatically, in June 2021, we will have three million additional people – a total of 16 million people or 54% of the Yemeni population–affected by food shortages in Yemen. Five million will be close to starving and 50,000 people will actually starve.

We see that Yemen remains a place of widespread violation of international humanitarian law. We just talked about all the problems created for humanitarian aid. Last week, Germany co-sponsored an Arria formula meeting on the latest report of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) on Yemen. The report title speaks for itself: “A Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land”. Some of you did not participate in the meeting and also some of you did not want the GEE to brief the Council directly, so let me summarize the main findings: The report clearly says that all parties commit severe violations of human rights, international humanitarian law and even war crimes and crimes against humanity. The second finding of the report is that without accountability and justice, there can be no sustainable peace. The third finding was that questions of peace and security on the one hand, and human rights on the other hand, are interlinked and belong on the agenda of this Council.

We have to speak out on the violation of international law, call upon all parties to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law. With regard to accountability, the Group of Eminent Experts had some interesting proposals: we as the Security Council could refer these violations of international law and of war crimes to the ICC; we can expand the sanctions regime; we can investigate and prosecute the war crimes domestically; or we can also establish an independent investigative mechanism for Yemen, as we have done in Syria and Afghanistan. The GEE has been severely criticized by those who actually prevented the access to Yemen or also did not fully cooperate with the GEE. We should listen to the GEE even if there are some truths that may be unbearable. Let me end just by quoting from the GEE report.  I quote an example of Houthi torturing in Taiz, “We verified that 40 men and one boy had been subjected to torture. Methods included repeated and severe beatings with sticks, electric cables and iron bars, electrocution, removal of fingernails, the electrocution and beating of the genitals with threats of sterilization, forced nudity and solitary confinement. Those tortured included human rights activists, educators and legal professionals.” Let me quote the second one where the government of Yemen is implicated in Marib, the case of five men and two boys: “they 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 because we need to hear them, we need to listen, and we need to act accordingly.


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