The United Nations has called for the creation of an independent international body to investigate a series of human violations in the ongoing war in Yemen.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s human rights chief, said in a statement on Thursday that air strikes by the Arab coalition in Yemen were responsible for the majority of 3,799 civilian deaths.
Houthi rebels and allied forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who rule the capital, Sanaa, have carried out rocket and mortar attacks on residential areas and used landmines, the UN Human Rights body said in its report. These also constituted documented violations that should be addressed, it said.
The UN human rights chief said that Yemenis were suffering “unbearably [without] any form of accountability and justice, while those responsible for the violations and abuses against them enjoy impunity”.
Hussein said that “such a manifestly protracted unjust situation must no longer be tolerated by the international community”, and called for the creation of “an international, independent investigative body to carry out comprehensive investigations”.
But the UN stopped short of accusing either side of war crimes, saying that it was for a national or international court to decide.
“We are investigating, monitoring the violations but we cannot decide that this is a crime or not, this is for a tribunal or for a specific body to decide. We cannot have this assertion that there is a crime or war crime,” Mohammad Ali Alnsour, chief of the Middle East and North Africa section of the UN human rights office, told Reuters news agency.
Yemen descended into chaos after the 2012 removal of long-time president Saleh, whose forces are now fighting alongside Houthi rebels.
Security deteriorated further after the Houthis swept into Sanaa in September 2014 and pushed south, forcing the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile.
In an attempt to return the exiled president to power, a coalition led by Arab countries began an air campaign in March of 2015.
Since then, more than 2.8 million Yemenis have been driven from their homes and at least 14 million people, more than half of the population, are in need of emergency food and life-saving assistance.
Last week, the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, evacuated its staff from six hospitals in the north of the country after a coalition air strike hit a health facility operated by the group, killing 19 people.
The 16-month conflict has also taken a horrifying toll on the country’s youth, with UNICEF warning that an estimated 320,000 children face life-threatening malnutrition.