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GRC and Mwatana call on the UNSC to enhance accountability for mass starvation in Yemen

10 March 2021

Sana’a/The Hague – When it meets on 11 March 2021 under the purview of UNSC Resolution 2417, the UN Security Council (UNSC) should take steps to ensure that persons responsible for the use of starvation as a method of warfare in Yemen can be held accountable, Global Rights Compliance (GRC) and Mwatana for Human Rights said today.


Under UNSC 2417, the UNSC identified a range of options to prevent and prohibit the war crime of starvation. The UNSC should now clearly condemn the use of starvation as a method of warfare in Yemen, call on states to investigate starvation crimes and take action against those responsible in accordance with domestic and international law, including by referring the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court (ICC).


Despite repeated calls by the UN Human Rights Council Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen and the UNSC Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts on Yemen for States to take action towards holding perpetrators accountable, thus far no steps have been taken towards addressing impunity for starvation-related conduct.


“The impetus is on the Security Council to make UNSC 2417 operational by ensuring those responsible for using starvation as a method of warfare can be held accountable,” said Catriona Murdoch, GRC Partner. “Action to enhance 2417’s operation must be taken and form part of an integrated and holistic program of awareness and reform.”


In 2019, Mwatana for Human Rights documented at least 112 incidents that again raised concerns regarding the use of starvation as a method of warfare, including attacks on objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food production and distribution sites and the denial or obstruction of humanitarian aid.


In its Policy Paper on Yemen, GRC concluded these acts constitute significant causal factors of acute food insecurity in Yemen, a conclusion which is supported by the Panel of Experts finding that the parties to the conflict are “using the threat of starvation as an instrument of war.”


According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “16 million people will go hungry [in 2021]” and 5 million people are one step behind the “50,000 people [already] essentially starving to death.”


“The conflict in Yemen and grave humanitarian situation now faced by a majority of the population is precisely the type of situation Resolution 2417 should address,” said Radhya al-Mutawakel, Mwatana for Human Rights Chairperson. “After years of impunity for starvation-related conduct in Yemen, failure to take decisive action on Yemen risks undermining the very purposes for which 2417 was adopted.”


UNSC Resolution 2417 was unanimously adopted on 24 May 2018. It recognized the link between conflict and hunger and condemned the use of starvation as a method of warfare, emphasizing that it may constitute a war crime. In the Resolution, the UNSC urges States to conduct independent, impartial, full, prompt and effective investigations into violations of international humanitarian law related to the starvation of civilians and hold those responsible to account.


Mwatana and GRC are currently undertaking a joint investigation into starvation-related conduct in Yemen.



Catriona Murdoch:

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