Economic profiteering fuelling war in Yemen: UN

Analysts estimate Houthi rebels diverted at least $1.8bn in 2019 allocated for citizens’ basic services and salaries.

A new UN report says individuals and entities in Iran are increasingly supplying 'significant volumes of weapons and components' to Houthis [File: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

Economic profiteering is fuelling the catastrophe in Yemen where a six-year war has led to repeated attacks on civilians, forced disappearances, and other gross violations human rights violations, UN experts said.

A new United Nations report estimates Houthi rebels diverted at least $1.8bn in 2019 earmarked for the government to pay salaries and provide basic services to citizens.

Yemen’s government, meanwhile, implemented a scheme to illegally divert to traders $423m of Saudi money meant to buy rice and other commodities for the Yemeni people, it said.

The report describes a deteriorating situation in Yemen, where the panel of experts said the Houthis and the government “appear to be indifferent” to the devastating effect of the economy’s downfall on its people while continuing to divert the country’s economic and financial resources.

Six years of war between a US-backed Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognised government and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have been catastrophic for Yemen, killing more than 112,000 people, creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, bringing the country to the brink of famine and wrecking infrastructure.

It began with the 2014 Houthi takeover of the north, where the majority of Yemenis live, which prompted a destructive air campaign by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition aimed at restoring the government.

The panel said there is “an increasing body of evidence suggesting that individuals and entities” in Iran supply “significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis”.

The panel said the government lost strategic territory to the Houthis and the Southern Transitional Council, a separatist group backed by the United Arab Emirates. In December, the coalition announced a power-sharing cabinet including southern separatists, part of a deal to end a power struggle between the former allies.

“The lack of a coherent strategy among anti-Houthi forces, demonstrated by infighting within them, and disagreements between their regional backers, has served to strengthen the Houthis,” the UN experts said.

The report said the Houthis perform government functions including collecting taxes and other state revenue “a large portion of which is used to fund their war effort” — not to help the Yemeni people.

“The government of Yemen is, in some cases, engaging in money-laundering and corruption practices that adversely affect access to adequate food supplies for Yemenis, in violation of the right to food,” the panel said.

In the $423m scheme that illegally transferred public money to traders, 48 percent was received by a single holding corporation, the Hayel Saeed Anam Group, said the experts.

Source: AP