David Miliband warns of escalating attacks on civilians in Yemen by Saudi-led coalition

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) headed by former British foreign secretary David Miliband, has today highlighted figures showing rising attacks on civilians in Yemen.

Data from the Yemen Data Project reveals that in the two months following the dissolution of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) in October 2021 – the only international, impartial body reporting on rights violations and abuses in Yemen – Saudi coalition bombing rates increased by 43%. The Assistant Secretary General reported that in December, 358 civilians were reportedly killed or injured as a direct result of hostilities by all sides – the highest figure in three years.

Across Yemen, actions of all warring parties continue to force civilians from their homes. 2021 saw over 255,000 people displaced by conflict. In Marib alone, more than 45,000 people have been displaced since September last year. In Shabwah, where IRC works, over 1,900 displaced people have arrived in the first two weeks of this month alone. For millions of Yemenis, the devaluation of the currency compounds their vulnerability, with many families unable to afford the food they need to survive.

The IRC is calling for all parties to engage with the UN Special Envoy to implement a ceasefire, make meaningful commitments to advance peace through diplomatic means, and for the reinstatement of the GEE to hold those responsible for violations in Yemen to account.

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said: “Drone attacks in Abu Dhabi on the 17th January and ongoing retaliatory airstrikes in Sana’a are only the most recent evidence of growing violence and impunity in Yemen. The alarming escalation in attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure after the scrapping of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (GEE) – the only mechanism instituted to ensure a modicum of accountability for violations of international humanitarian law – speaks volumes of the extent that the system designed to protect civilians in conflicts worldwide is failing them. When scrutiny is removed, impunity prevails.

“The disbanding of the GEE is a damning example of political interest taking precedence over the rights and safety of civilians, over international law itself, and of the impunity which has come to characterize so many of the world’s worst conflicts, including Yemen. Seventy percent of the victims of war today are civilians, record numbers of aid workers are being attacked, and over the last five years hospitals and health facilities have been targeted as never before in direct contravention of the laws of war. Yemenis have suffered enough at the hands of all warring parties and need immediate relief from the deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

“It is absolutely paramount that the GEE – or an analogous mechanism to monitor violations of international humanitarian law – be reinstated immediately. In addition, all parties to the conflict must engage with the UN Special Envoy to finally make strides towards a political settlement to end the suffering of Yemeni civilians once and for all.”