Geneva - A workshop on the sidelines of the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva was organized by The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and the Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health (GIWEH) on Tuesday to discuss the disastrous humanitarian situation of civilians caused by armed conflicts and instability in the Middle East.
In his speech on the violations of the rights of civilians through the policy of random and indiscriminate killing in Yemen, Yousef al-Jamal, Euro-Med’s advocacy department officer, said that thousands of Yemenis - mostly civilians - have been killed since the beginning of the attacks in 2015 on Yemen by both the Arab Coalition and the Saleh-Houthi militia.
Al-Jamal further stated that 56% of civilian death toll in Yemen has been the result of airstrikes carried out by the Arab Coalition, according to data presented by the UN.
The Houthi-Saleh militia also bear responsibility for the killing and abducting of hundreds of Yemeni civilians, added Al-Jamal, noting that the Yemenis' security and wellbeing are now in a critical stage after three years of conflict.
About 600 Yemeni civilians, including 100 children and 59 women, have been killed in 80 airstrikes carried out by the Arab Coalition forces, as documented by a number of human rights organizations working on the ground.
Al-Jamal concluded his presentation by calling on the international community to provide protection to Yemeni civilians in the ongoing conflict by exerting pressure on the Arab Coalition as well as on militants to end their targeting of civilians. He also called on the various international organizations and bodies to condemn the attacks targeting innocent lives in Yemen.
All parties to the conflict, whether the Arab Coalition or the Houthi-Saleh militia, should immediately cease their targeting of civilians and instead work on neutralizing them and sparing them the repercussions of war, said Al-Jamal.
Ahmed Al-Quraishi, researcher and specialist in the Middle East affairs, talked about the violations of the justice system in Iraq and its impact on stability and social peace, further elaborating on the situation of internally displaced families from areas previously controlled by ISIS. Al-Quraishi also detailed the circumstances under which detainees are kept away from their families and sometimes forced into disappearance, forcing families as a result to travel long distances to visit their loved ones.
Al-Quraishi highlighted the violations resulting from the inclusion of the Iraqi militias in the operations of the Iraqi army, indicating that families evacuated from war-torn areas include Sunnis, Christians, Shia and Kurds.
On the other hand, Sarah Pritchett, Euro-Med’s spokeswoman, highlighted the negative impact on civilians brought about by the veto abuse and its contribution to the rise of terrorism in Syria.
Pritchett reviewed cases where some of the United Nations permanent members abused their power to the veto, thus failing to protect the civilian population and to maintain international peace and security. Examples raised include those of Rwanda, Srebrenica, Kosovo, and the long-lasting occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Pritchett also mentioned that Euro-Med’s team has been working on a comprehensive study regarding the use of the veto, which will be issued soon.
Briefly reflecting on the recent history of vetoed resolutions by the Security Council’s P5 and their impact on civilians in Syria, Pritchett provided examples showing that all vetoes proved counterproductive. In total, vetoed resolutions have led to further radicalize youth, arriving at a point of despair and a lack of faith in the international community. Pritchett also pointed out that since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, nine resolutions, out of 15 aimed at ending human rights violations, have been vetoed.
Ghada Al-Rayyan, a legal researcher at Euro-Med Monitor, touched in her presentation on the Israeli blockade’s devastating impact on Gaza’s economy since 2006 as well as other resulting complications such as the soaring unemployment. Al-Rayyan pointed out that 47% of Palestinian refugees in Gaza are jobless.
Gaza is no longer livable given the ongoing blockade, Al-Rayyan reiterated, stressing that the international community should act immediately to lift the blockade and to end the state of isolation of Palestinians in the coastal enclave. Al-Rayyan discussed the impact of the Palestinian division, especially that the Palestinian Authority’s cuts of the already scarce amounts of electricity fuel and its denial of medical referrals for many patients in the Gaza Strip have only further contributed to exacerbating the already dire situation of civilians.
Al-Rayyan recommended effective and impartial international and regional intervention to ensure an end to the Israeli blockade and occupation as a whole and to find a solution that secures the lives of the population in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.
Following presentations, questions and comments were raised by the audience on ways to spare civilians harm resulting from the ongoing conflicts sweeping the Middle East. The speakers have also stressed the need for a more effective role of the United Nations. While military intervention in the Middle East has only deepened crises, participants demanded that a different approach should be followed to better serve the interests of civilians rather than those of states or governments.