BRUSSELS: The international community has been urged to do more to address human rights abuses committed by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
And speakers at a special conference on the issue also called for militia leaders to be prosecuted in international tribunals for their war crimes.
Atrocities committed by the Houthis against women and children were among a catalog of incidents highlighted at the recent meeting in Brussels organized by the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament.
Guest speaker, Dr. Wesam Basindawa, Head of the Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women, spoke to Members of the European Parliament and representatives of EU institutions on cases of physical and sexual violence against women and children, recruitment of children as soldiers and brutal attacks. against minorities.
She said the Houthis had obstructed the delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid and carried out cross-border terror attacks against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and the neighboring United Arab Emirates.
The group had also turned schools and educational institutions into camps and arms stores, in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.
And she pointed out that religious and ethnic minorities in Yemen, such as the Jewish and Baha’i communities, had seen many of their basic rights and freedoms curtailed by the Houthis.
Basindawa said, “We and the international community must do more work and put pressure on this terrorist militia, toughen the sanctions against them, prosecute their leaders and try them in international tribunals as war criminals.
MEP Isabella Tovaglieri, a member of the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, said women were the most affected and vulnerable category in conflict areas and needed to be protected against rape, kidnapping, forced marriage and poverty.
“Europe should help women in peacebuilding and conflict resolution,” she added.
Addressing the conference, MEP Luisa Regimenti spoke about physical and psychological violence against women and the importance of providing support services to victims.
Another MEP, Ryszard Czarnecki, said the Houthis had targeted civilians in attacks in Marib and Al-Thwara hospital, adding that the group burned down an overcrowded detention center housing African refugees.
Isabella Adinolfi, MEP and member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, also spoke at the conference. She noted the need to support female teachers, scholars and journalists working to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
MEP Gianna Gancia said the war in Yemen had created a critical situation for women and girls and that “since the beginning of the conflict seven years ago, the EU has deployed diplomatic efforts and provided financial support in Yemen through humanitarian and development assistance”.
Alessandra Illuticini, President of Progetto Donna 2021, spoke to delegates about the atrocities inflicted on women in Houthi-controlled areas, such as the forced wearing of the niqab, child marriage, honor killings and domestic violence.
She stressed the need to work closely with the UN and human rights organizations to empower and protect women, as well as support their struggle for rights.
MEP Lucia Vuolo said: “Yemen remains one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The conflict in Yemen continues to endanger civilians, trigger displacement and damage civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools.
Simona Russo, coordinator of the Fight Impunity association, said the gravity of the situation in Yemen was one “that should not be forgotten”.
The show’s host, MEP Fulvio Martusciello, said he had worked for more than three years on raising awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
He and his colleagues in the European Parliament had written to Joseph Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, demanding that the Houthis be designated as a terrorist group.
MEP Anna Cinzia Bonfrisco said: “We need to encourage women who build peace and help them establish dialogue between the different parties in Yemen. Women should be active members of peace negotiations in Yemen.
Closing the session, conference moderator Manel Msalmi said that the EU, as an actor for peace, should work closely with civil society organizations in Yemen to empower women leaders.