UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe Security Council Meets on Situation in Yemen

Yemen Panel of Experts 2023 Report Released


Mon, 04-12-2023 06:08 PM, Aden

Jason Law (South24) 

The UN Security Council has made public the latest report submitted by the Yemen Panel of Experts to the Council’s specialized Sanctions Committee, which was established under UN Resolution 2140 in 2014 to oversee the application of asset freezes and travel bans on the Houthis and other individuals threatening Yemen’s security. 

The 305-page report was transmitted to the Committee on November 2nd, and provides updates on the Committee’s work during the period from 1st December 2022 to 31st August 2023. It proposed new recommendations regarding issues pertinent to Resolution 2140, mainly focusing on human rights violations and economic and financial measures. 

Findings of the Report

The report begins by addressing the largest barriers to attaining peace, security, and stability in Yemen, despite the existence of what some analysts refer to as an “informal truce” since December 2022. It cites “ongoing violations of international humanitarian law … perpetrated by parties to the conflict”, stressing that a strong justice system is needed for lasting peace in Yemen. The increasing military capabilities of the Houthis also threaten stability and indicate a widespread violation of the arms embargo. Political developments within the Government of Yemen, PLC, and Southern Transitional Council (STC), alongside the financial challenges within the country, also pose further peace process difficulties. 

The Panel’s report documents military operations between the Houthis and Government forces on the frontlines and the Houthi build-up of special forces and advanced weapons systems. It details clashes along various fronts including those in Marib, Shabwah, Taiz, Hudaydah, and Abyan. Military developments such as the clearing of mines, military parades, live-fire exercises, and aggressive rhetoric indicate potential preparation for an offensive. 

Military developments throughout Yemen that further complicate the power dynamics in the country are elaborated on. The PLC formally established the Nation Shield Forces which then established a base in Aden. “Divergence of political interests between the Islah-affiliated First Military Region and the Hadrami Elite Forces, affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council in Hadramout” have created further challenges regarding factionalism. The growing presence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and their attacks against Government and STC forces, particularly in Abyan and Shabwah, continue to hamper stability efforts. 

Numerous maritime security incidents in Yemeni territorial waters are detailed in the report, though recent developments related to Israeli ships fall outside the report’s time frame. The report points out that “tension in the Red Sea is currently high”. The Houthis’ establishment of a naval base on Kamaran Island, and subsequent naval exercises featuring heavy weaponry, pose risks for international shipping routes. 

The Panel investigated violations of the targeted arms embargo according to Resolution 2140, analyzing materials displayed in Houthi military parades in September 2022 as well as seizures of arms shipments. The report details four cases of illegal arms shipments, containing weapons, ammunition, missiles, and advanced weapon components, seized by international parties in the Gulf of Oman in the reported period. The packaging and markings of the cargo indicated origins in Iran, China, and Russia. 

Human rights abuses are a focal point of the report, which states that “Civilians, including women and children, continue to bear the brunt of the protracted conflict and are subjected to all forms of violence and abuse. Sexual and gender-based violence, recruitment and use of children, arbitrary detention, and systematic torture are among the major threats to peace and security in Yemen.”

The number of civilian casualties remained high during the reported period, despite a perceived decrease in frontline violence. Between December 2022 and August 31st 2023, there were 1,436 civilian casualties, including 253 children, and 341 attacks on civilian infrastructure. Unexploded ordinance resulted in 417 civilian casualties including 140 deaths in the same period. The report indicates that in multiple cases, explosives were placed in and around schools, mosques, and houses in rural areas to target returning populations after the Houthis left the area. 

The report documents the widespread use of arbitrary detention and forcible disappearance by all parties to the conflict. Prisoners of both the Houthis and STC forces have been subjected to systematic torture. The report also highlighted Houthi attacks on vulnerable groups, including religious minorities and migrants. Migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees in Yemen faced systematic violations of their rights. 

Further expanding on its documentation of human rights violations, the report cites multiple documented cases of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. Sexual violence primarily used by the Houthis against those in detention facilities and by trafficking gangs against migrants. 

Children continue to pay a heavy price amid the conflict, seriously impacting future generations of Yemenis. The report indicates that education in Houthi schools promotes hate, violence, and discrimination, further undermining peace in Yemen. 

Although focusing heavily on human rights issues, the report stresses that the economic issues affecting the country have never been so central as they have this year. It states that the economic power balance has shifted in favor of the Houthis over the past few months, and the economic sanctions pursuant to Resolution 2140 have had limited impact. The panel explains that the financial situation is so intertwined with the broader political one that it can “no longer be said to be separate”, suggesting that an economic war has largely replaced the military one, likely preventing any peaceful settlement from happening in the near future.

Economic turmoil has been weaponized by political parties in both Houthi-controlled areas and government ones, according to the report. It alleges that Southern parties have exploited high rates of inflation and the depreciation of the Yemeni rial. Meanwhile, the Houthis have deployed economic measures to incapacitate the Yemeni Government, to use “hunger as a weapon in their aggression”, as described by a Yemeni Government official. 

Recommendations for the Security Council

Following the report’s findings, the panel provides a long list of recommendations for the Security Council to consider, including peace process measures, condemnations, calls for action directed at relevant parties, and the establishment of new mechanisms. 

The panel recommends establishing a unit to monitor violations of the targeted arms embargo and reinforce the Yemeni Government’s ability to control illicit arms flow. 

It also recommends condemning in the strongest terms “all attacks targeted against civilians and civilian infrastructure, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law” and for the UNSC to “reaffirm the need for the parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law”. 

Further recommendations request that the council call on all parties to the conflict to; end the use of torture and other cruel treatment against prisoners; make efforts to “stop the indiscriminate use of landmines and remove existing landmines from civilian areas”; ensure freedom and humanitarian relief accessibility; end unlawful enforced disappearances, and inform relevant families of abductees' whereabouts; prioritize the release of children, women, elderly and the critically ill in prisoner exchanges; and establish an economic committee with international mediators to solve the economic issues within a specific time frame.

The Panel asks the UNSC to call on the Houthis to channel their port revenues to the Central Bank of Yemen for salary payments throughout Yemen, and to end the forced confiscation of land and other properties. It also calls on the Houthis to comply with international human rights laws by ending the recruitment of children.

The panel makes several additional recommendations regarding the international community. It requests calling on UNSC member states to; enhance their support for humanitarian de-mining efforts; support the UN Office to enhance the Yemeni Coast Guard’s ability to prevent weapons, drugs, and contraband smuggling and rescue migrants; support investigation of alleged human rights violations; and increase humanitarian funding allocation to Yemen. 

On November 14th, the Security Council renewed the travel ban and assets freeze on specific individuals and entities in Yemen, and extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts, until December 15th, 2024. 

Jason Law

English Editor at South24 Center for News and Studies

South YemenYemenNorth YemenPLCHouthisSTCSaudi ArabiaUNPanel of Experts