Yemen Human Rights - History

Yemen Human Rights - History

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In 2014 Houthi-Saleh rebels took control of the capital and occupied many government offices, precipitating the relocation of President Hadi and his government in 2015. The ensuing conflict continued as of year’s end. The UN-led peace process included attempts to reestablish a cessation of hostilities at intervals throughout the year. These efforts made no progress, and the conflict continued to escalate. Throughout the year, the Saudi-led coalition continued military operations against Houthi-Saleh rebels, including an active military role by the UAE.

The Hadi-led government re-established a presence in Aden and additional areas in the South in 2016. Prime Minister Ahmed Bin Dagher and part of the cabinet remained in Aden, with some cabinet members also present in Marib. President Hadi remained abroad in Saudi Arabia.

Throughout the year, clashes occurred as warring parties lost and regained territory. The military’s loyalty was divided among numerous local actors. Armed clashes expanded to several areas of the country among Houthi-Saleh rebels, supporters of the Islah Party (Sunni Islamist) and the Rashad Party (Salafi), armed separatists affiliated with the southern separatist movement Hirak tribal forces, progovernment resistance forces, and some Saudi-led coalition ground forces, with participation by elements of the Hadi-led government’s armed forces. Terrorist groups, including AQAP, carried out many deadly attacks against government representatives and installations, Houthi combatants, members of Hirak, and other actors accused of behavior violating sharia law.

Yemeni and international observers criticized all parties to the conflict for civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure resulting from shelling and airstrikes.

As a result of the fighting, the humanitarian situation in the country deteriorated significantly, with 8.4 million people at potential risk for famine and a reported 80 percent of the country’s population requiring humanitarian assistance by year’s end, according to the United Nations. An estimated three million Yemenis remained internally displaced during the year. The United Nations estimated that only 55 percent of health facilities remained functional.

Yemen suffered from two cholera outbreaks, the first in October 2016 and the second in April. The World Health Organization reported more than 964,000 suspected cases and more than 2,220 deaths since April.

Killings: While information on civilian casualties was incomplete--especially with the closure of many health facilities during the year due to insecurity and the lack of supplies--NGOs, media outlets, and humanitarian and international organizations reported what they characterized as disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by all parties to the continuing conflict.

At least 5,000 civilians, including 1,120 children, were killed and more than 8,700 injured in the conflict from March 2015 until August 2017, according to the OHCHR. The OHCHR further estimated there were more air strikes in the first half of the year than in all of 2016, resulting in an increase in the number of civilian deaths and a worsening humanitarian emergency. Civilian casualties also resulted from shelling by Houthi-Saleh rebels and their affiliated popular committees. Other deaths resulted from attacks and killings by armed groups, including AQAP and ISIS.

Near year’s end in November and December, Houthi militias fired two ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia over Riyadh. Saudi media reported that more than 370 Saudi civilians have been killed in Houthi attacks along the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border since March 2015.

The Saudi-led coalition airstrikes reportedly resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions. The United Nations and NGOs, including HRW and Amnesty International, voiced serious concerns regarding Saudi-led coalition activities, claiming some coalition airstrikes were indiscriminate and caused disproportionate collateral impact on civilians. Coalition sources sometimes reported that damage in a given explosive incident resulted not from airstrikes but from shelling by Houthi-Saleh rebel forces; there were often contrary claims by pro-Houthi media. Due to continuing fighting, there was limited opportunity for postincident forensic investigations.

According to HRW, on March 16, a helicopter fired on a civilian boat in the Red Sea near Hudaydah that was carrying predominantly Somali citizens, including many refugees and migrants. There were 42 casualties, including women and children. Both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi-Saleh forces denied responsibility for the attack; a UN investigation attributed responsibility to the Saudi-led coalition.

Reuters and several local media sources reported that, on June 17, two Saudi-led coalition air raids killed at least 25 civilians in al-Mashnaq market in the Shada District of the Sa’ada Governorate.

On July 18, the OHCHR reported a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed at least 18 civilians, including 10 children in al-Asheerah village in Taiz. The three families in the house were internally displaced persons who moved due to airstrikes in their home village.

The coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team, based in Riyadh and consisting of 14 military and civilian members from coalition member states, investigated some incidents of airstrikes that reportedly resulted in civilian casualties and concluded that facilities hit during the year were targeted as legitimate military facilities.

Abductions: In its August report, the OHCHR stated it verified 491 cases of abduction and “deprivation of liberty” since July 2015. Of these, 89 percent were allegedly committed by the popular committees or tribal militias, 6 percent by AQAP affiliates, and 5 percent by the popular resistance committees or armed groups. The OHCHR reported that, as of March 24, some 249 individuals, including 18 journalists, were reportedly detained without cause in detention facilities throughout the country. Tribal groups were also responsible for kidnappings for ransom, as were other nonstate actors, such as AQAP (see section 1.b.).

Local press reports and activists also alleged that coalition and local forces abducted, arbitrarily detained, and mistreated individuals, including those without apparent ties to terrorist organizations, as part of their counterterrorism efforts in the Mukalla area.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: The NCIAVHR claimed to have received 386 cases involving torture from September 2016 to June (see section 1.c.).

Following a visit to Aden early in the year, HRW reported in an April statement that Houthi-Saleh forces used land mines in six governorates, including in residential areas, which appear to have killed and maimed hundreds of civilians since the conflict began.

In February the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC) found and cleared improvised mines on civilian roads near the port city of Mokha in Taiz governorate, from which Houthi-Saleh forces had recently withdrawn. HRW reported that AQAP has also used landmines.

Between July 2015 and March 2, YEMAC’s southern branch reportedly found and destroyed 65,272 landmines, including 20,807 antipersonnel landmines, attributed to Houthi-Saleh forces and AQAP in Aden, Abyan, Lahj, al-Dhale, and Taiz.

Child Soldiers: Although law and government policy expressly forbid the practice, children under the age of 18 directly participated in armed conflict for government, tribal, and militant forces, primarily as guards and couriers. Nearly one-third of the combatants in the country were younger than 18, by some estimates. The lack of a consistent system for birth registration compounded difficulties in proving age, which at times contributed to the recruitment of minors into the military. In September the OHCHR reported 1,702 verified cases of recruitment and use of child soldiers since March 2015, of which 67 percent were attributed to Houthi-Saleh forces and 20 percent to progovernment forces.

During the year the Houthis and other armed groups, including tribal and Islamist militias and AQAP, increased their recruitment, training, and deployment of children as participants in the conflict.

A February Amnesty International report found that the Houthis actively recruited boys as young as 15 to fight as child soldiers. According to the report, Houthi representatives ran local centers where young boys and men were encouraged to fight. One source said the Houthis imposed recruitment quotas on local representatives.

Tribes, including some armed and financed by the government to fight alongside the regular army, used underage recruits in combat zones, according to reports by international NGOs, such as Save the Children. Houthi-Saleh rebels routinely used children to staff checkpoints, act as human shields, or serve as suicide bombers. Combatants reportedly involved married boys between the ages of 12 and 15 in fighting in the northern tribal areas; tribal custom considered married boys as adults who owe allegiance to the tribe. As a result, according to international and local human rights NGOs, one-half of tribal fighters were youths under 18. Other observers noted that tribes rarely placed boys in harm’s way but used them as guards rather than fighters.

The UN Security Council Panel of Experts on Yemen reported in January 2016 that young men and child combatants of all local fighting groups in Aden were reportedly subject to rape upon capture.

Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at

Other Conflict-related Abuse: All parties to the conflict routinely imposed severe restrictions on movements of people, goods, and humanitarian assistance. Food insecurity, fuel shortages, damage to local infrastructure, and lack of access for humanitarian organizations to vulnerable populations contributed to the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

The Houthi-Saleh militias’ forceful takeover and misadministration of government institutions led to dire economic consequences--nonpayment of workers’ wages and allegations of widespread corruption, including at checkpoints controlled by Houthi-Saleh militias--that severely affected the distribution of food aid and exacerbated food insecurity.

The government, the coalition, or both delayed or denied clearance permits for humanitarian and commercial aid shipments bound for rebel-held Red Sea ports. After a Houthi ballistic missile attack was intercepted over the Riyadh airport on November 4, the Saudi-led coalition blocked all air, sea, and land crossings in and out of Yemen, ceasing all commercial imports and humanitarian aid into the country for more than two weeks. The Saudi-led coalition reversed this action on December 20, allowing ports, including the critical Red Sea port of Hudaydah, to reopen.

Militias held trucks containing food, medical supplies, and aid equipment at checkpoints and prevented them from entering major cities.

There were reports of attacks on health-care facilities and health-care workers. The September OHCHR report for Yemen noted that, according to the World Health Organization, as of October 2016, at least 274 health facilities had been damaged or destroyed by fighting, 13 health workers killed, and 31 injured while performing their duties.

In January the UN Security Council Panel of Experts found that all parties to the conflict--the Saudi-led coalition, the Houthi-Saleh military alliance, and forces associated with the government of Yemen--committed or contributed to violations against hospitals. The panel recorded three incidents in Taiz in which armed men threatened hospital staff and disrupted life-saving treatment to demand treatment first for their wounded.

There were reports of the use of civilians to shield combatants. Houthi-Saleh forces reportedly used captives as human shields at military encampments and ammunition depots under threat of coalition airstrikes.

Yemen 2020

All parties to the conflict in Yemen continued to commit violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses with impunity. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition, supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government, and Huthi forces continued to carry out attacks that unlawfully killed and injured civilians and destroyed civilian objects. All parties to the conflict carried out arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, harassment, torture and other ill-treatment, and unfair trials of individuals, targeted solely for their political, religious or professional affiliations, or for their peaceful activism. The parties to the conflict impeded the flow of life-saving goods, including food, medicine and fuel, and Huthi forces continued to impose arbitrary restrictions on humanitarian aid agencies. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic put further pressure on an already depleted health care system, which had only 50% of its hospitals and health care facilities still operating, as compared to 2016. Additionally, a 50% drop in the humanitarian response fund compared to 2019 further compounded the effects of the pandemic on what was left of the health system, increased food insecurity and limited access to clean water, sanitation and public health. People with disabilities and migrant workers were impacted disproportionately by the combined effects of the conflict and the pandemic. Death sentences were handed down for a wide range of crimes, and executions were carried out.


In December, the internationally recognized Yemeni government reported that the number of COVID-19 cases had reached 2,078, namely in Hadramawt, Aden, Ta’iz, Lahij, Abyan, Almahra, Aldal ’ a, Ma’arib and Shabwa governorates. Meanwhile, the Huthi de facto authorities reported only a handful of cases in northern Yemen. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator estimated in June that there were possibly up to 1 million people affected by the virus in the country, with a fatality rate as high as 25%, five times the global average. According to the UN, health workers, including those working on the front line responding to COVID-19, were significantly impacted by the almost 50% reduction in aid. The UN estimated that this would result in: the closure of water and sanitation programmes serving 4 million people 5 million children going without routine vaccinations and the closure of malnutrition programmes and other wider health programmes serving 19 million people.

The armed conflict continued throughout 2020, with attacks by parties to the conflict escalating, including in Ma’arib, al-Jawf, al-Bayda, Dahle’, Hodeidah, Abyan and Shabwa governorates.

The UN Secretary-General’s call in March for an immediate global and humanitarian ceasefire to end hostilities and counter COVID-19 was welcomed by all parties to the conflict except the Huthi forces, who refused to participate. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen pursued negotiations with parties to the conflict, and in September a draft joint declaration was submitted, including guidelines for a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian measures and engagement in the political process.

In April, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), declared “self-rule” in areas under its control in the south of the country, after withdrawing from the Saudi-brokered peace deal reached in 2019 between the STC and the internationally recognized Yemeni government. Talks subsequently resumed, during which the STC abandoned its declaration of self-administration. On 18 December, a new power-sharing cabinet was formed as part of the Riyadh agreement headed by Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed.

The UAE announced the completion of its phased military withdrawal from Yemen. However, it continued to illicitly divert weapons and military equipment to militias in Yemen and carried out air strikes.


Yemen is a party to the Geneva Conventions and an additional Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, [9] which is binding on all groups party to a conflict, and seeks to ensure that forces undertake precautions to avoid killing civilians. Under the Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, parties to a conflict must take care to "spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects". [10] Customary international humanitarian law also prohibits indiscriminate attacks in international and non-international conflicts. [11] Yemen is also party and therefore bound to some human rights treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Regional groups have been accused of indiscriminate attacks, often resulting in the deaths of civilians, and at times, of limiting the ability of civilians to import goods and arbitrarily detaining protesters. [12] [13] [14] The rights to life and to security of person, [15] not to be arbitrarily deprived of one's property, [16] and not to be arbitrarily detained [17] are protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and can be argued to have been breached by these regional groups.

Houthis Edit

According to Amnesty International, members of the pro Hadi and Houthi factions have often attacked each other from residential areas, which places civilians in danger of becoming caught up in the fighting. Some victims of these attacks have been children, who were caught up in conflict in Aden, as a result of the forces not ensuring that civilians would not be harmed, and using weapons such as unguided rockets, which can be inaccurate, especially in residential areas. These attacks have been said to violate international law, [18] as the forces have often not taken sufficient precautions to ensure the safety of civilians, particularly in residential areas. In addition to the use of rockets, Houthis have been accused of laying landmines, which can gravely endanger civilians. [19] The use of these mines has alarmed human rights groups, the use of anti-personnel mines was banned in Yemen as a result of the Mine Ban Treaty. Members of local human rights groups have reported finding 1,170 unexploded mines in around a month. [20]

According to Amnesty international annual report 2015–2016, Houthis and allied forces loyal to former President Saleh have expanded their arbitrary arrests, detentions and abductions of government supporters, activists, and human rights defenders. The international organisation said that many detainees were held in an inappropriate and unofficial detention center. In October, Armed men belonging to Houthi militia arrested at least 25 men while attending a meeting at Ibb hotel. Most of them were released later after being tortured. [21]

There are concerns around freedom of speech in Houthi controlled areas, after reports of arbitrary detention of protestors and activists emerged. [22] Journalists have also been kidnapped by Houthi and other forces, and the Committee to Protect Journalists has called for an investigation into the treatment of journalists in Yemen. [23]

In addition to accusations of indiscriminately firing on Yemeni civilians, attacks on Saudi Arabian civilians have been attributed to the Houthis. [24] Rockets allegedly fired by Houthis killed two Saudi Arabian girls in late August 2016, and injured five others. [24] Some Saudi Arabian locals have expressed the view that these attacks may be the Houthis exerting pressure on the Saudi Arabian government to end the war. [24]

On 17 March 2017, Houthi forces launched a missile at a mosque, which killed at least 22 pro-government worshippers. [25]

The United Nations World Food Programme has accused the Houthis of diverting food aid and illegally removing food lorries from distribution areas, with rations sold on the open market or given to those not entitled to it. [26] The WFP has also warned that aid could be suspended to areas of Yemen under the control of Houthi rebels due to "obstructive and uncooperative" Houthi leaders that have hampered the independent selection of beneficiaries. [27] WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel stated "The continued blocking by some within the Houthi leadership of the biometric registration . is undermining an essential process that would allow us to independently verify that food is reaching . people on the brink of famine". The WFP has warned that "unless progress is made on previous agreements we will have to implement a phased suspension of aid". The Norwegian Refugee Council has stated that they share the WPF frustrations and reiterate to the Houthis to allow humanitarian agencies to distribute food. [28] [29]

Three leaders of the Houthi movement were to be designated as the Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This announcement of January 2021 raised concerns amongst the aid workers and diplomats, who pointed that the move would create problems in the peace process and in providing aid in Yemen. [30]

Other regional groups Edit

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has carried out indiscriminate attacks in Yemen. In March 2015, the bombing of two mosques in Sana'a which killed around 140 people, were claimed by the Islamic State. [31] This type of attack has continued further into the civil war: in southern Yemen there have been reports of car bombings and published videos of executions of Yemeni shia Muslims. [32] According to these reports, the strength of the Islamic State in Yemen has increased since the beginning of the conflict. In May 2016, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Mukalla which killed 25 Yemeni police recruits at a training compound. [33] On 29 August 2016, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a training camp in Aden which was being used by pro-government militia known as Popular Resistance. [34] As of August 2016, reports suggested that at least 54 people were killed and 60 injured in the attack. [35]

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also been using the political situation in Yemen to their advantage: they have captured cities from government groups, and are thought to be using the conflict to gain more recruits. [36] However, United States officials have claimed that Islamic State now presents a higher risk than al-Qaeda. [37]

Various groups have accused Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, of human rights violations and some have gone as far as accusing the coalition of war crimes. [38] The majority of these accusations stem from airstrikes undertaken by the coalition, [39] but others, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, have also criticised the coalition's approach to blockades. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food claimed "the deliberate starvation of civilians in both international and internal armed conflict may constitute a war crime, and could also constitute a crime against humanity in the event of deliberate denial of food and also the deprivation of food sources or supplies." [40] A 2019 United Nations report said the US, UK and France may be complicit in committing war crimes in Yemen by selling weapons and providing other support to the Saudi-led coalition which is using the deliberate starvation of civilians as a tactic of warfare. [41] [42]

Iran has been accused of supporting Houthis by supplying them with military aid and resources. [43] Iran has denied these accusations. [43]

In September 2020, a UN report said the combatant parties in Yemen continue to ignore international law and exhibit little regard for human rights. It went on to accuse the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and the United States of prolonging the conflict by supplying the country with arms. [44]

Saudi Arabian involvement in civil war Edit

According to a UN report released in early 2016, it is believed that the Saudi Arabian-led coalition could be deliberately targeting civilians. [45] Human Rights Watch has identified several airstrikes which have hit civilian targets: an attack on a camp for displaced people, and a dairy factory. [46] [47] Médecins Sans Frontières claims it was attacked four times in three months by coalition forces. [48] In addition to these targets, the UN panel who worked on the report also claimed that the coalition targeted "civilian gatherings, including weddings civilian vehicles, including buses civilian residential areas medical facilities schools mosques markets, factories and food storage warehouses and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana'a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes", and concluded this was in violation of international law. [49] The panel also concluded that airstrikes contributed to 60% of civilian deaths since the beginning of the conflict. [50] At the end of August 2016, the United Nations revised the number of deaths during the war from around 6,000 to at least 10,000, and the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator noted the difficulty in providing an exact number of people killed during the conflict. [51]

Saudi Arabia's actions in Yemen have also attracted condemnation from the United Nations and other human rights groups. The United Nations placed Saudi Arabia on a suspicion of children's rights violations blacklist in 2016 as a result of the allegations against Saudi Arabia, especially with regards to the deaths of children. However, in June 2016, Saudi Arabia was removed from the blacklist by the United Nations. The decision by the United Nations to remove Saudi Arabia was met by widespread condemnation by multiple human rights groups: Amnesty International stated it was "blatant pandering" Oxfam claimed it was "a moral failure", and Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch's deputy director for global advocacy stated that "Yemen's children deserve better". [52]

Saudi Arabia is a major sponsor of the United Nations, and many human rights groups suggested this was the reason for the removal of Saudi Arabia from the blacklist. [53]

In September 2016, it was reported that Saudi Arabian forces had used white phosphorus in Yemen, which was identified as being American in origin. [54] As of September 2016, it is unclear what the phosphorus is being used for in Yemen, but there are several possible breaches raised by the sale: under U.S. regulations, white phosphorus is only to be sold to countries for the purposes of signalling and creating smoke screens. [54] Under international law, the use of white phosphorus is not prohibited, but there are requirements that it cannot be used near civilians. [54] White phosphorus can burn skin tissue deeply, and this can cause multiple organ failure. [55] If inhaled, it may cause cardiac arrest. [55]

In late September 2016, it was reported that a Saudi airstrike had hit a residential area in Al Hudaydah, killing at least 25 people and injuring 70. [56] A government official told AFP news agency that the area was probably accidentally hit while Saudi Arabian forces were targeting what they believed to be a Houthi stronghold. [56]

In October 2016, Saudi Arabian forces were accused of being responsible for air strikes on a funeral hall, resulting in the deaths of at least 140 people. [57] Initial reports indicated that a further 525 people were injured in the airstrikes. [58] The funeral was for the father of Houthi-appointed Interior Minister Galal al-Rawishan. [57] Sources in Yemen claimed that due to the number of casualties, the medical staff in Sana'a was overwhelmed and doctors who were off duty had to be called in to assist. [59] As of 9 October 2016, the final number of casualties is unknown, but it is likely the attack is one of the most deadly since the beginning of the Yemeni Civil War in March 2015. [59]

On 29 October 2016, at least 17 civilians were killed in Taiz in airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. [60] It was reported that the area was targeting a suburb allegedly known to be used by Houthis. [60] This attack raises issues of human rights and international law breaches on both sides. The actions by the coalition in striking the civilian area raise issues of distinction, as the harm caused to civilians and their property is possibly out of proportion to the direct military advantage that was gained in carrying out the airstrikes. The fact that the Houthis are fighting in civilian areas could be in breach of the Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, as their actions mean civilians are likely to be killed in the conflict.

On 30 October 2016, Saudi Arabian forces carried out airstrikes on a prison in Hudaydah. Initial reports said inmates and rebels were killed, and Houthi media reported that 43 people were killed in the airstrikes. [61]

In mid-February 2017, Saudi-led forces were accused of killing at least five people who had been attending a funeral near Sana'a. Many others were also injured. [62]

On 17 March 2017, a boat carrying Somali refugees out of Yemen was attacked by a military helicopter, resulting in the deaths of at least 30 Somalis. [63] as of 18 March, the circumstances of the attack remain unclear, with some survivors claiming the attack came from a helicopter, and others claiming a battleship, then a helicopter attacked the boat. [63] According to a survivor, 10 of those killed were women, and five were children. Mohammed Abdiker, emergencies director at the International Organization for Migration, said 42 bodies were recovered, and noted that the combatants should have attempted to identify the passengers before deciding whether to attack. [63] The New York Times cited Yemeni officials as saying that Saudi forces were responsible for the attack, but some uncertainty remains as to who carried out the attack. [64] The Saudi-led coalition has not commented on the attack. [64]

On 22 April 2018, a Saudi-led airstrike hit a wedding in the Bani Qayis district of Hajjah Governorate, Yemen. Casualty estimates vary, with Al-Masirah reporting the toll later that day to be at least 33 civilians, including the bride, while other estimates are higher. Forty-five other people were injured in the strike. The victims were mainly women and children. [65] The planes used to carry out the strike continued to fly over the area, preventing medical ambulances from reaching the scene to treat the wounded. [66]

On late March the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday reported that British Special Forces are fighting on the same side as jihadists and militia which use child soldiers. [67] After the report, The shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, questioned these allegations in the British parliament suggesting that the British forces may have been witnesses to war crimes, if the allegations were true. She claimed that as many as 40% of the soldiers in the Saudi coalition were children, a breach of international humanitarian law. [68] In response, the UK Foreign Office minister Mark Field called the allegations "very serious and well sourced" and promised to get to the bottom of these allegations. [68]

In April 2019 the Qatari-based news agency Al Jazeera, reported, based in footage of the presence of child soldiers in the recruitment camps of the Saudi-UAE-led coalition. Children from 15 to 16 were recruited from poverty-driven villages from the Saudi-Yemen border. [69]

On 25 March 2020, Human Rights Watch reported that Saudi-led intervention in Yemen has been committing serious violations of human rights since June 2019. The rights group said that the abuses included arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances and illicit transfer of detainees to Saudi Arabia. The agency also took into account the testimonies of former detainees, who revealed that they were interrogated and tortured at an informal detention facility. [70]

On March 30, 2020, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. The attacks hit the presidential palace compound, a school and an air base close to Sanaa airport. The bombardment took place after calls from the United Nations were made to maintain ceasefire during coronavirus pandemic. [71]

On June 15, 2020, the United Nations removed the Saudi-led coalition from a blacklist of those whose actions harm children. Human rights groups have criticized the UN and accused its Secretary General António Guterres of ignoring evidence of grave violations. The UN found that 222 children were killed or injured by the coalition in 2019. The Saudi-led coalition was also responsible for the recruitment of children, detentions, abductions, sexual violence, and attacks on schools and hospitals. [72]

Saudi Arabia's response to accusations Edit

On 16 May 2016, Brigadier General Ahmed Hassan Asiri responded to Human Rights Watch's accusations, stating that Saudi Arabia's actions are not motivated by self-interest, but rather "because we saw population undermined and oppressed by the militias". [73] Ahmed Asiri claimed that Human Rights Watch did not have a team on the ground in Yemen, and when told by Mary Louise Kelly during an interview that Human Rights Watch had visited Yemen, stated "No. No one can get in Yemen without the permission of the coalition". [73]

Human Rights Watch responded to these statements on 16 May 2016. Belkis Wille stated that "In fact, this two-week trip was the fourth I had made to Yemen since the beginning of the war in March 2015. Given what I go through to get into Yemen, al-Assiri's statement was laughable". [74] She stated that on each of her visits to Yemen during this time period her passport has been confiscated, with no reason being given. She claims that this indicates that the coalition knows that she is visiting Yemen. [74]

After initially denying responsibility, on 15 October 2016, Saudi Arabia admitted responsibility for the funeral airstrikes which killed at least 140 and injured 525. [75] Saudi Arabian forces blamed the airstrikes on "wrong information" which was provided by an unnamed party, which had reportedly claimed the funeral was a legitimate target. [75] Human Rights Watch has claimed that the airstrikes likely constitute a war crime, due to the indiscriminate nature of the attack. [76]

Western involvement in civil war Edit

While the coalition is led by Saudi Arabia's coalition, other states, including Western forces, have assisted the campaign. In 2015, Saudi Arabia acquired approximately $24.3 billion worth of weapons from the United States and the United Kingdom. [77] The United Kingdom has also claimed that it is helping to train Saudi Arabian forces in selecting bombing targets. The Saudi Arabian foreign minister has confirmed that British forces are assisting their Saudi Arabian counterparts in choosing targets, but are not involved in the actual attacks. [78] In September 2016, it was announced that two British select committees had found that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia should be halted until an independent investigation into the war in Yemen is carried out. [79]

The sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia has been labelled "illegal and immoral", [80] and some commentators have claimed that the United Kingdom is breaching its own domestic laws, as well as the Arms Trade Treaty. [81] These claims have been refuted, with the UK's Middle East minister claiming that Saudi Arabia was being criticised on the basis of "hearsay and photographs". [82] Despite these claims, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently called on the United Kingdom to halt the supply of arms to Saudi Arabia, and suggested that the United Kingdom, as a party to the Arms Trade Treaty, should set an example. [83]

The United States has also been criticised for allegedly supplying cluster munitions to Saudi Arabian forces. Cluster munitions are often considered unacceptable due their largely indiscriminate function and high risk of unexploded munitions. The United States is not party to the Cluster Munition Coalition, which bans the use of Cluster munitions. [84] It has been argued that the United States' direct support of the Saudi forces, in particular in providing intelligence and in-air refueling has made it a party to the conflict. [85]

In September 2016, Yemen's Houthi leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, claimed that the United States is providing political cover for Saudi Arabia, including "protection from pressure by human rights groups and the United Nations". [86]

In October 2016, it was revealed that the British Government has been involved in training the Saudi Air Force. [87] The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon claimed the British Government's assistance was to "improve their targeting processes" and that this was therefore not in breach of international law. [87] Michael Fallon stated that the United Kingdom has not provided specific operational advice to Saudi Arabia as part of the training. [87]

On 29 January 2017, the first United States raid authorised by President Donald Trump ended in multiple civilian deaths, including the death of Anwar al-Awlaki's eight-year-old daughter. [88] According to the Guardian, the raid had been planned under the Obama administration, but it had been thought that the underlying intelligence did not justify the risks involved in carrying out the raid. Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command stated that the United States military forces were neither aware of the presence of Nawar al-Awlaki in the compound, nor that any of the estimated 14 people killed in the raid were civilians. [88]

According to the human rights organisation Reprieve, as many as 23 civilians were killed in the raid, including a newborn baby boy, and ten children. [89] The baby killed was born as a result of his heavily pregnant mother being shot in the stomach, which left the baby severely injured. [89] According to Reprieve, strikes in countries where the United States is not at war are largely considered to violate international law. [89]

In early February 2017, Yemen withdrew its permission for United States ground raids in Yemen. [90] The United States acknowledged that the raid which took place on 29 January resulted in civilian casualties. [90]

In late February, 2017, NBC reported that the raid had yielded no significant information, according to senior U.S. officials. The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that "the mission was successful in helping prevent a future attack or attacks on this nation". [91] This claim was disputed by officials who spoke to NBC. [91]

On 2–3 March 2017, U.S. forces carried out dozens of airstrikes on alleged al-Qaeda targets in southern Yemen. [92] According to locals, the airstrikes, which were carried out in the Shabwa, Abyan and al-Bayda provinces, killed women and children. [92]

It was reported that U.S. forces also engaged in gun fights with suspected al-Qaeda targets on 3 March 2017. The Pentagon confirmed that the airstrikes had taken place, but denied that American troops were involved in ground combat. [93] Adam Baron, visiting fellow at the Europe Council on Foreign Relations in Beirut claimed he believed there was "a huge danger" of civilians being caught in the crossfire of U.S. airstrikes targeting al-Qaeda. [93]

On 8 March 2017, it was reported that two boys were killed by a U.S. drone while walking along a road in Ghabat Yakla. [94]

On 10 March 2017, The Intercept reported eyewitness accounts about the 29 January 2017 U.S. raid, including the fact that the first person killed was a 13-year-old neighbour of the alleged target of the strike. [95] Family members of the injured and killed who spoke to Iona Craig stated that the attack helicopters "fired on anything that moved". [95] According to a U.S. special operations adviser and a former senior special operations officer who spoke to The Intercept, the target of the raid was Qassim al Rimi, the current leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who was not killed or injured during the raid. The White House has denied that al Rimi was the target of the raid. [96]

On 25 March 2017, it was revealed that Australian firms had secured four military export deals with Saudi Arabia in the past year. [97] The Australian government has refused to provide details of the approved military sales. [97] The Australian Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne, has outlined that in order to approve the sales, five criteria must be considered international obligations, national security, human rights, regional security and foreign policy. While Australia has called for a ceasefire, both Christopher Pyne and the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, would not comment on Saudi Arabia's use of force. [97]

United States' response to accusations Edit

In late May, 2016, the United States halted the supply of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. [98]

In June 2016, John Kerry, then the United States Secretary of State denied that the Saudi Arabian led campaign had been "indiscriminate, or not sufficiently careful", and claimed he thought that Saudi Arabia was attempting to act responsibly and avoid endangering civilians. [99] Kerry added that the Houthis "have a pretty good, practiced way of putting civilians into danger." [100]

Under the Obama administration, weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia were halted due to human rights concerns. [101] However, in March 2017, under the Trump administration, the weapons shipments resumed. [101] There is also speculation that Yemen may not receive aid, as Donald Trump's 2017 budget outline released in March 2017 plans to slash 28% of the funding given to United States Agency for International Development. [101]

On 23 November 2017, The Intercept wrote that a former aide of Samantha Power was "working to undermine criticisms of the war". [102]

United Arab Emirates involvement in civil war Edit

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the United Arab Emirates is supporting Yemeni forces that arbitrarily detained dozens of people during security operations. The UAE finances, arms and trains these forces, which are ostensibly fighting Yemeni affiliates of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. HRW documented 49 cases, including 4 children, who were arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared in the provinces of Aden and Hadramout in 2016. UAE-backed security forces seems to have arrested at least 38 of them. Several sources, including Yemeni officials, reported that there were a number of unofficial places of detention and secret prisons in Aden and Hadramout, including two run by the UAE and one run by Yemeni security forces backed by the UAE. Former detainees and their relatives told HRW that some detainees had been subjected to abuse or torture in detention centers, often severely beaten, with security agents using their fists, weapons or other metal objects. Others also reported that security forces used electric shock, stripping clothes, and threatening detainees. [103] According to UN panel of experts in Yemen, witnesses have described persistent and pervasive aggressive behavior from UAE supported Security Belt forces and United Arab Emirates personnel. [104]

The United States is working closely with the UAE to fight al-Qaeda, and U.S. government members have repeatedly praised the UAE operations. In 2016, the United States sent a small number of special operations forces to Yemen to assist the UAE in its fight against armed groups. Some reports reported that the United States has conducted joint operations with the UAE against al-Qaeda in eastern and central Yemen, according to The New York Times and The Intercept. [105]

In a press release, the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean warned that detainees in the UAE-controlled "Bir Ahmed" prison were subjected to "the most severe methods of intimidation and psychological and physical torture" which reflected the security situation in Aden. Euro-Mediterranean pointed out that there were more than 170 detainees arbitrarily and without charge in the 60 dungeons, which does not exceed 40 square meters only. The detainees live in harsh conditions because of inhumane practices they have been subjected to since 18 months of detention, which forced them to go on hunger strike. [106] According to the Pentagon, U.S. forces had interrogated detainees in those prisons in an attempt to get intelligence about al-Qaeda, but denied witnessing any abuse or mistreatment. The UAE responded and denied having operational control of local or federal governance, judicial, prison systems, or secret detention centers in Yemen. [107] According to Amnesty International, scores of detainees were released from formal and informal detention facilities run by UAE-backed local forces and the UAE military in June/July 2018. [108]

Iranian involvement in civil war Edit

In March 2017, Reuters published an exclusive story in which it cited regional and Western sources as saying that Iran was sending "advanced weapons and military advisers" to Yemen to assist the Houthis. [109] Sources claimed Iran has stepped up its involvement in the civil war over the last few months, and an Iranian official claimed that Qasem Soleimani discussed ways to "empower" Houthis at a meeting in Tehran in February, 2017. [109]

Blockades Edit

Blockades imposed by coalition forces, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been extremely detrimental to Yemen, as the country relies heavily on the import of essential items, such as fuel and medicine. [110] Joanne Liu, the head of Doctors Without Borders, has claimed that the blockades imposed on Yemen "killing as (many people as) the current conflict". [111] The blockades imposed could be argued to breach the right to food, especially in a country such as Yemen, which imports 90% of its food. [7]

On 6 November 2017, Saudi Arabia closed all entry points to Yemen, two days after intercepting a ballistic missile fired from a Houthi controlled area over Riyadh's international airport. As of 8 November 2017, virtually all of the aid deliveries to Yemen were halted, and three United Nations airplanes carrying emergency planes had been turned back. [112]

In mid November 2017, government-controlled sea and airports were allowed to reopen. [113]

On 22 November 2017, the Saudi-led coalition announced it would allow aid deliveries into the ports of Sana'a and Hodeida. [113] However, it was reported that UN aid teams did not have access to Hodeida on 24 November 2017. [114] Planes arrived in Sana'a on 25 November, carrying 1.9 million vaccines, though UNICEF officials stated this is a small portion of what is required. [114]

On 26 November 2017, a UN aid ship was allowed to dock in the port of Saleef. [114] The ship is carrying enough food to feed 1.8 million people in northern Yemen for a month, according to the World Food Programme. [114]

On 28 November 2017, it was reported that Theresa May planned to demand that Saudi Arabia end the blockade of Yemen's ports. [115]

Right to an adequate standard of living Edit

Yemen has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which provides for an adequate standard of living, including the right to adequate food. [116] The Covenant implicitly provides for the right to water. The Covenant also provides for the right to housing and defines it as: "the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity".It requires "adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate security, adequate lighting and ventilation, adequate basic infrastructure and adequate location with regard to work and basic facilities—all at a reasonable cost". [116]

Before the civil war began, Yemen was one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, with 61% of the population requiring humanitarian assistance, and widespread violations of human rights reported. The conflict and actions by the coalition, particularly the blockades, have been argued to have crippled the Yemeni economy. At the beginning of 2016 it was reported that 6 of every 10 Yemenis is not food secure, and as access to food is mostly dependent on its ability to be transported, it can be difficult for many Yemenis to buy the food they need. In June 2016, it was reported that 19 out of 22 of Yemen's governorates face severe food insecurity, and a quarter of the population is living under emergency levels of food insecurity. [117]

On 2 March 2017, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, stated that 19 million Yemenis (approximately two thirds of the total population) are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection assistance. [118] O'Brien also stated that seven million Yemenis are not food secure, and urged parties to the conflict to allow facilitate humanitarian access to those in need. [118]

The availability of water is an even more urgent need, with only 1 in 4 Yemenis having access to clean water. The number of Yemenis requiring assistance to meet their needs with regards to sanitation and clean water has increased by around 9.8 million people since the beginning of the civil war. [119]

Some areas of Yemen, such as Saada, are almost completely without power: 95% of the electrical sources in the city have been bombed. [7] According to the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, one in ten Yemenis has been displaced by the conflict, and 21.2 million people (of Yemen's population of 26 million) are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. [120]

On 3 May 2017, Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland wrote that "the world is letting some 7 million men, women and children slowly but surely, be engulfed by unprecedented famine. It is not a drought that is at fault. This preventable catastrophe is man-made". [121]

Right to health Edit

Article 12 of the Covenant gives everybody "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health". [122] According to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), this includes a healthcare system which is available to all. [123] In August 2016, a Doctors without Borders hospital was hit in a Saudi airstrike, resulting in the deaths of at least 15 people and injuring 20. [124] This bombing occurred only two days after a school in Northern Yemen was hit in a Saudi airstrike. [124] Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, saying "that civilians, including children, continue to bear the brunt of increased fighting and military operations in Yemen", and calling for a swift investigation. [125]

Cholera outbreak Edit

In October 2016, it was reported that a cholera outbreak was severely affecting many Yemenis. [126] UNICEF supported struggling health clinics by supplying water, water purifiers, and hygiene kits. [126] On 28 October, the World Health Organization announced that there were 1,410 cases of cholera in 10 of Yemen's 23 governates. [127]

In July 2017, it was reported that the cholera epidemic was beginning to slow. [128] As of late July 2017, it is estimated that the epidemic infected approximately 400,000 people. [128] Of the 400,000 people over the three-month period, approximately 2,000 died. [129] The fact that rubbish is not being collected, along with the fact that water pumps cannot operate due to lack of fuel, have been named as causes of the outbreak. [129]

In September 2017, Al Jazeera reported that more than 2,000 people had died since late April as a result of the outbreak. [130] Al Jazeera also reported that there were at least a million cholera cases in the country and around 5,000 new cases were being discovered each day. [130] On 29 September 2017 the International Committee of the Red Cross stated that it expected at least 900,000 cholera cases in Yemen by the end of 2017. [131]

In October 2017, it was reported that the cholera epidemic was expected to affect at least 600,000 children by the end of the year. [132] As of 12 October 2017, the World Health Organization had reported more than 815,000 cholera cases in Yemen. [132] Of the estimated 4,000 new cases each day, more than half are cases involving children under the age of 18. [132]

Multiple groups have commented on the cholera outbreak. A representative of Save the Children has commented that "the existence of a cholera outbreak in general is unforgivable in the 21st century because it means there's no access to clean water or sanitation". [133] Others, such as Homer Venters of the Physicians for Human Rights, have stated that the ongoing blockade and closure of airports in Yemen has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching those in need. [133]

Iona Craig has noted that the rate of infection began to ease in September 2017. [134] Despite the reduction in infection rate, as of 12 November 2017, there were an estimated 900,000 cases of cholera and over 2,190 deaths related deaths recorded in Yemen. [134]

Children's rights Edit

A major concern for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance is the rights of children, who are being extremely adversely affected by the current situation in Yemen. Despite Yemen's international commitment to uphold the rights of children, UNICEF has claimed that approximately a third of the fighters from various regional groups are children. [135]

The conflict is also having an effect on the health of Yemeni children the number of children who died from preventable diseases per year increased by around 10,000 since the beginning of the conflict. This is likely due to the closure of around 600 medical facilities in Yemen, and also affects Yemenis of all ages. [136] Some cancer patients have been unable to access critical treatment such as radiation therapy, due to pressure on the resources of hospitals in some areas. [137] The hospitals and other medical facilities which have remained open often suffer from a lack of staff, equipment, medicine, and power cuts. [7] Education has also suffered as a result of the conflict, with 1,100 schools unfit to reopen as of April 2016, and 1.8 million children have out of school since the beginning of the conflict due to Iran. In August 2016, a school was hit by a Saudi Arabian airstrike, resulting in the death of at least 19 people, most of whom were children. [138]

It has been reported that around 180,000 Yemeni children are suffering from malnutrition. [139] As of May 2016, The United Nations claimed it had only been able to reach a third of the children suffering from acute malnutrition. [139] According to UNICEF, as of May 2016, 1.3 million Yemeni children are at risk of malnutrition. [140]

On 2 March 2017, Stephen O'Brien stated that also 500,000 children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition and that a child dies every 10 minutes due to preventable causes in Yemen. [118]

On 28 November 2017, Gert Cappelaere, the UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated that Yemen is "one of the worst places on Earth to be a child". [141]

Women's rights Edit

Women have also been heavily affected by the conflict: they make up 52% of displaced people, and gender based violence has increased since the beginning of the conflict. [119] At the end of 2016, it was estimated that there had been more than 10,000 reported incidents of gender based violence. [142] The Middle East Eye reported the story of a refugee family in al-Shimayateen, who stated that their 13-year-old daughter had been kidnapped, raped and killed by a man who had previously provided the family with food and been considered a "benefactor". [142]

Yemen: One of the Worst Places in the World to be a Woman

By God, I am broken from the inside. It’s not normal, I don’t feel like a human being. I can’t breathe properly like other human beings. We suffer from the forced niqab, child marriage, divorce shame, domestic violence and honor killings. I don’t know… as if we are aliens. They [male family members] have to oppress us and we have to stay oppressed – like a puppet controlled by strings.”

This is what a Yemeni woman told me over the phone, as her shaky voice reflected the sadness, hurt and fear which women in Yemen have come to experience on a daily basis. Over the past three months, as a member of the Yemen team at Amnesty International, I have been speaking to women in Yemen from Ma’arib, Taiz and Sana’a about the types of violence women are subjected to as they experience increased responsibilities and an evolution of their gender roles.

The increasing roles and responsibilities of women have proved to be a double-edged sword. Although the gender roles shift can provide an opportunity to alleviate women’s status quo when she is equipped with adequate abilities, women, as a result of this transition have been further subjected to violence. Literature has shown that in societies with rigid gender norms, men feel emasculated and threatened when they experience a shift in gender roles, which can lead to an increase in intimate partner violence.

In Yemen, a country ranked last in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index for 13 consecutive years, women have been suffering from deeply entrenched gender inequality rooted in a patriarchal society with rigid gender roles. While the conflict in Yemen has had a horrific impact on all civilians generally, women and girls have been disproportionately affected. Negative gender stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes, a discriminatory legal system, and economic inequality have compounded women’s vulnerability to violence. The fighting has left the country’s people struggling with a dire economic crisis, damaged infrastructure and collapsed services. But in addition, women have had to contend with limited mobility due to cultural gender norms. Also, since they are responsible for providing food and care in their homes, they have had to struggle with the challenges of limited (or lack of) access to food, water, sanitation and health care services – which has seen a steady deterioration as the conflict continues.

In addition to the economic and social challenges, the women I spoke to also shared with me a wide range of security-related concerns, some amounting to serious violations: attacks at checkpoints if they were unaccompanied by a male relative and attacks during protests, including harassment, arbitrary detention and torture and other-ill treatment by security forces, and increased domestic violence.

Another woman told me: “I was traveling with three children when we were stopped at a checkpoint by Huthi forces. They detained us, with no food and water during under very hot weather. We begged them to let us pass but they refused. They insulted us and threatened us with rape. We panicked and started crying… when they were done with us, they left us on the street at night in a secluded and isolated area… We were afraid, and the children terrified.”

According to prevailing gender roles, men are recognized as the “protectors” of women and families without the male relative present, women are more vulnerable to sexual and physical violence. Within this context, an unchaperoned woman faces increased risks of violence at checkpoints. One of the tactics used by Huthi de facto authorities on checkpoints includes head-shaving, especially new brides traveling between governorates to meet their husbands. In this society, in addition to caring for her husband, a woman is expected to physically appeal to her husband. More often than not, these women end up divorced, shamed and suffer from psychological distress. Survivors of violence such as head-shaving are often reluctant to report the abuse, fearing backlash from their own community and security officials.

One issue on which women have clearly mobilized and refuse to stay silent is that of detention and/or enforced disappearance of their male family members. Mothers, wives and sisters of male detainees are both direct and second-hand victims of the detention and/or enforced disappearances of their family members. Firstly, deprived from their husbands, fathers and brothers, they suffer psychologically – made worse by not knowing when or if their loved ones will return. Secondly, they are forced to become the main caregivers, heads of household and activists mobilizing for the rights of their detained male relatives. Each role they step into increases their chances of sexual and physical violence within and outside of the household whether by neighbors taking advantage of a woman’s vulnerability or security forces curbing their activism and dismissing reports of violence.

Despite these challenges, these brave women continue their struggle for the release of their male relatives or for their right to know what happened to them. One Yemeni activist told me that during demonstrations calling for the release of loved ones, women were subjected to degrading treatment by security personnel as they protested in front of the UN Envoy’s office. She said: “We were harassed, beaten with rifles, our scarves were pulled, we were dragged on the street by security forces, some dressed in civilian clothes while others in military uniforms. One woman suffered from a head injury and was bleeding on the street.”

Despite the unique and particular ways in which women have been affected and suffered as a result of the conflict, and despite women’s active role in campaigning and advocating including for the rights of their detained male relatives, Yemeni women remain under-represented in peace talks. United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, such as 1325 and subsequent resolutions, reiterate the importance of women’s participation in peace talks and peacebuilding negotiations, while other resolutions such as 2216 include calls on ending violence in Yemen while excluding explicitly the call for the inclusion of women and limits women’s participation to dialogue processes.

A UN-backed initiative led to the creation of the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security which includes an advisory board of 60 women. The Pact aims to build women’s leadership, increase participation and inclusion in negotiations. The Pact also acts as a consultative body for the Office of the UN Special Envoy. The initiative, while a positive and significant step, should act as a platform to raise the voices of those mostly affected by the conflict by ensuring the inclusion of Yemeni women in peace talks.

The challenge remains as to translating such a positive initiative into reality on the ground. The rights and needs of women and girls will remain in the shadows, without a gender transformative agenda, peace in Yemen will be impeded. Women in Yemen are threatened or violently repressed if they speak out, mobilize or advocate for their rights. If the United Nations is serious about promoting gender equality and ending the crisis in Yemen, they should ensure more open space for women participation and increase their inclusion in peace talks, to make sure that such initiatives are meaningful and substantive.

It is crucial that any measure by the UN is grounded in a wider framework of addressing gender discrimination, through a national legislative reform process that would address longstanding violations of women’s human rights. The Yemeni government must take effective measures to increase women’s political participation, address systemic and discriminatory laws and practices, protect the right of women to equality with men and to be free from all forms of discrimination, and address the underlying social and cultural attitudes that discriminate against women. The Yemeni authorities must also ensure and reinforce the protection of women from violence and discrimination inside and outside of their homes.


All parties to the continuing armed conflict committed war crimes and other serious violations of international law, with inadequate accountability measures in place to ensure justice and reparation to victims. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government continued to bomb civilian infrastructure and carried out indiscriminate attacks, killing and injuring civilians.

The Huthi-Saleh forces indiscriminately shelled civilian residential areas in Ta’iz city and fired artillery indiscriminately across the border into Saudi Arabia, killing and injuring civilians. The Yemeni government, Huthi-Saleh forces and Yemeni forces aligned to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) engaged in illegal detention practices including enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment.

Women and girls continued to face entrenched discrimination and other abuses, including forced and early marriage and domestic violence. The death penalty remained in force no information was publicly available on death sentences or executions.

The UN reported that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition supporting President Hadi’s government continued to be the leading cause of civilian casualties in the conflict. The coalition continued to commit serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law with impunity.

Coalition aircraft carried out bomb attacks on areas controlled or contested by Huthi forces and their allies, particularly in the Sana’a, Ta’iz, Hajjah, Hodeidah and Sa’da governorates, killing and injuring thousands of civilians. Many coalition attacks were directed at military targets, but others were indiscriminate, disproportionate or directed against civilians and civilian objects, including funeral gatherings, schools, markets, residential areas and civilian boats.

Huthi and allied forces, including army units loyal to former President Saleh, continued to employ tactics that appeared to violate the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks. They indiscriminately fired explosive munitions with wide-area effects, including mortars and artillery shells, into residential areas controlled or contested by opposing forces, killing and injuring civilians.

Download our two-page document providing an overview of the conflict in Yemen.



UN Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen presents their third report to the Human Rights Council: A Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land urging an end to impunity, in a conflict with no clean hands, and the referral by the UN Security Council of the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court.

GENEVA / BEIRUT (29 September 2020) -- In its third report, officially presented to the Human Rights Council today, the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen detailed scores of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. These include airstrikes that fail to abide by principles of distinction, proportionality and/or precaution, indiscriminate attacks using mortar shelling, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and unlawful killings at checkpoints. Other violations include the use of torture, including sexual violence in detention, denial of fair trial rights, the targeting of marginalized communities and the impeding of humanitarian operations, having a devastating effect of the ordinary lives of those in Yemen. The Group also denounced the endemic impunity for those violations that fuels more abuses.

"Last year, we referred to the situation in Yemen as having reached a 'surreal and absurd' dimension. The situation has not improved. The continuation of violations this year, underlines the complete lack of respect for international law being displayed by parties to the conflict. For too many people in Yemen, there is simply no safe place to escape the ravages of the war," said Kamel Jendoubi, the Chairperson of the Group of Experts.

The report titled 'Yemen: A Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land' was released on 9 September 2020, and covers the period from July 2019 to June 2020. The report presented findings of the Group's investigation in a number of emblematic cases, focusing on events since July 2019. The Group also examined incidents that occurred as early as the beginning of the conflict in 2014, to shed light on certain categories of violations. In this report, the Group of Experts has established that all parties to the conflict have continued to commit a range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

"Our investigations this year have confirmed rampant levels of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes," Jendoubi added in his remarks to the Council.

The Group of Experts stressed that there are no clean hands in this conflict. The responsibility for violations rests with all parties to the conflict. In its findings, the report concluded that violations have been committed by the Government of Yemen, the Houthis, the Southern Transitional Council, as well as members of the Coalition, in particular Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

"We are concerned that impunity continues largely unabated for those who perpetrate serious violations. While the Group has seen some progress in terms of investigations conducted by parties and some matters have been referred for criminal prosecution, to date no-one has been held accountable for the violations that the Group has identified. Accountability is key to ensure justice for the people of Yemen," added Jendoubi.

The Group of Experts called upon the Security Council to refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court, and to expand the list of persons subject to Security Council sanctions. The Group also expressed support for the creation of an international criminal justice investigation mechanism, as well as further discussions about the possibility of a specialized court to deal with the international crimes committed during the conflict in Yemen.

The Group reiterated its call for third states to stop transferring arms to parties to the conflict given the role of such transfers in perpetuating the conflict and potentially contributing to violations.

Over the past weeks the Group of Experts conducted meetings with relevant international and local actors, including key Yemeni NGOs to present the findings of the third report and discuss the needed steps. Besides this official report, the Group of Experts also released a Conference Room Paper, which is a longer document detailing its investigations and findings. About the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen (Group of Experts)

In its resolution 36/31 (2017), the Human Rights Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a group of eminent international and regional experts on Yemen to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in the country. The Group of Eminent Experts (Group of Experts) was mandated to carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and other appropriate and applicable fields of international law committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014, including the possible gender dimensions of such violations. The mandate of the Group of Experts also includes its duty to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses and, where possible, to identify those responsible. The Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the Group of Experts in its resolutions 39/16 (2018), and 42/2 (2019). The current members of the Group of Experts are:

The UN recorded 13,045 civilian casualties, including 4,773 killed, between 26 March 2015, when the coalition air campaign began, and 26 March 2017.

Just under half of Yemen's population is under 18 and more than 1,200 children are among the dead.

A report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, in August 2016 laid out a number of serious allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law committed by all sides.

They included attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure the use of landmines and cluster bombs sniper and drone attacks against civilians detentions targeted killings the recruitment and use of children in hostilities and forced evictions and displacement.

Human Rights Crisis in Yemen

According to Yemen Data Project more than 17,500 civilians were killed and injured since 2015, 20 million are experiencing food insecurity, 10 million are at a risk of famine[1], half of children under five in Yemen might experience acute malnutrition in 2021[2].

But food insecurity might be one of the least concerns for the citizens of Yemen considering the ongoing human rights crisis, one of the worst ever witnessed in human history.

The people dwelling in the nation have been put through grave inhumane treatment ranging from police brutality, human trafficking, bombing civilian infrastructure, suppressed freedom of speech, grave indiscrimination against women and girl child, sexual assault of the children, number of executions and death sentences, illegal detention.

And as Yemen is at a standstill, are the screams of the pain being heard by the rest of the world?

The article provides a brief of the crisis in Yemen, its background beginning from the root of the issue and how the civil war has impacted the lives of the civilians experiencing numerous human rights violations on a daily basis.

The article concludes with some suggestions as to what endeavours can be made on our behalf to help uplift the country from such inhumane conditions.

The objective of the research article is to present a background of the current Human Rights Crisis in Yemen, what initiated the civil war, articles guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are being violated as a result of this civil war.

The roots of the ongoing civil war in Yemen, dates back to a decade.

In 2011, the Longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh who had been ruling the country for 33 years saw an uprising in the streets demanding the president to transfer his power to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The new president failed to meet the demands of the citizens, further his failed attempts to address the economy, corruption, separatist protest in the south of the country, attacks by jihadists, food insecurity sparked an outrage among the citizens and gave rise to the Houthi movement. The Houthis representing Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, took control of the Saada province and its neighbouring areas. They gathered support from ordinary Yemenis, Sunnis and prior president Saleh and took over the capital Sanaa in the beginning of 2015.

When the inner turmoil of the nation gained limelight, the military of regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states took steps to supress the Houthis and restore the government. In 2015, Saudi Arabia along with UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Morocco, Sudan, Jordan and Egypt launched an international coalition to reinstate Hadi. They received logistical support and intelligence from the United States and the United Kingdom.[3]

The conflict that was supposed to last a few weeks has continued ever since then to the present date. The conflict lasts between two major groups the pro-government forces who are being led by President Hadi and anti-government forces led by the Houthis, backed by former President Saleh.

The Houthis still have control over the Sanaa and north-western Yemen. Besides it they have sieged the third city of Taiz and are retaliating to Saudi Arabia by regular ballistic missile and drone attacks.

The south of the country has been taken over by militants from al-Qaeda and rival Islamic State group, who have been carrying out deadly attacks and civilian bombings in the country.

There are also accusations that Iran is weapons to the rebel. Saudi Arabia imposed certain restrictions in 2017, which eventually led to increase in food and fuel aggravating the situation.

Further, In November 2017 there was clash between the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh regarding the control of Sanaa’s biggest mosque which led to a collapse of their coalition. The Houthis retaliated with a full operation leading to the death of Saleh.

In June 2018, the coalition decided upon launching an attack on the battlefield the Red Sea city of Hudaydah, to capture the Houthis.

The city’s port supports almost two thirds of Yemen’s population and hence the UN warned against any such capture which can lead to massive loss and destruction, worsen the current situation of the food crisis due to a possible famine.

At last, the fighting parties agreed to a ceasefire, in the “Stockholm agreement which required them to redeploy their forces from Hudaydah, establish a prisoner exchange.[4]”

Some major endeavours have been made since to bring the situation under control, but the redeployment of forces is not taking at the wanted pace and there are concerns regarding the upholding of the Stockholm agreement and whether it will be able to cease the rising tensions in Hudaydah with both the parties unwilling to take back the forces.

August 2019, saw clashes between Saudi Arabia forces and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) backed by the United Arab Emirates.

The major reason behind these fights was sharing od power. STC was afraid that Mr Hadi’s government was incapable to manage the affairs of the country and hence it proposed a power sharing deal with Saudi Arabia, failing to which it won’t let the cabinet return.

Yet after the agreement Yemen saw another uprising between the Houthis and coalition led forces in January 2020 which saw many air raids and missile strikes.

In April 2020, the STC agreed upon governing the port cities and southern provinces, conferring to their deal, with the internationally recognised government of Yemen.

The Houthis, still continue to reject any peace deals or ceasefires, are hellbent on lifting of air and sea blockades in Sanaa and Hudaydah. Further they have stepped up their use of drone and missile strikes into bordering Saudi Arabia with suggested assistance from Iran.

Thus, all the deals and efforts, proposed by the UN have reached an impasse. As a result of which, not much progress has been made with respect to getting the parties to settle and the conflict amongst them continues to haunt the lives of the dwellers.


“The international humanitarian law represents a balance between military necessity and humanitarian consideration in the context of conflict. Humanity represents the imperative during conflict to alleviate suffering and save lives, and to treat humanely and respectfully each individual” [5]

The international humanitarian law is based on two principles:

The principle of humanity aims to ensure that the captured persons receive humane treatment, limit the methods and means of warfare and mitigate the sufferings.[6]

The principle of military aims at ensuring lawful means in order to overpower an enemy.[7]

Where does Yemen stands in this respect?

Yemen’s situation was referred as “worst humanitarian crisis in the world” by the EU this year. The citizens have their loved ones at the hands of civilian bombing, malnutrition, barbaric conditions and extreme brutality of the conflict groups.

They have been surviving in a bleak world for years, failing to exercise even the basic human rights. The women and children there are being sexually assaulted each day, but they have no one to complain to or to fight for their rights. They have to go through intolerable suffering each day and this definitely doesn’t conform with the right to a dignified living for an individual. According to the September report by the UN Group of Eminent International and Regional experts, verified 12 cases of sexual violence on five women, six men and a 17-year-old boy. Which is definitely far below the actual numbers. United Nations Population Fund further confirmed that violence against women has increased 63 percent since the conflict escalated.

Further, the food insecurity numbers are increasing day by day. Nearly half of the population is food insecure with about 2 million facing hunger crisis. According to UN “Some 20 million people need help securing food, according to the UN. Almost 10 million of them are considered “one step away from famine”.”[8] This clearly violates the right to food guaranteed under article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights.

The conditions they have been subjected to is against the basic Principle of Humanity, according to UNICEF about 12 million need urgent humanitarian assistance, they are facing constant abuse in form of trafficking, illegal detention, extortion. As the statistics show, about 260,000 Ethiopians, an average of 10,000 per month, were deported from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia between May 2017 and March 2019.

The visuals they have been put through must have taken a mental toll on them, as per a report half of the children are facing depression since a very young age. All these cruelties the adults as well as the children have been subjected to clearly violates the “Right to life, liberty and security of person to everyone” as guaranteed under Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the principle of military to be maintained under an armed conflict.

The education sector of the country has clearly taken a backseat amongst the war. As statistics show “Before the pandemic, 2 million children were out of school and another 3.7 million were at risk of dropping out. Girls being at a greater risk with 36 percent out of school versus 24 percent for boys. Pandemic closures increased that number to 8 million. Prior to the pandemic, 4.7 million children needed educational assistance across the country, including 3.7 million in acute need. Some 2,000 schools, 20 percent of the total, have been rendered unusable, either destroyed or used to house IDPs, or as centers for isolating COVID-19 patients, etc. In the past five years, 380 schools have been attacked, caught in crossfire, or occupied by fighters, including 153 hit by airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition.”[9] The right to education guaranteed under the Article 26 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been violated gravely addressing the bombings on the schools.

Only half of the country’s 3,500 medical facilities are functioning, about 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare. And about 18 million, do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation. Along with it the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded, has resulted in more than 2.2 million suspected cases and 3,895 related deaths since October 2016.Further,the United Nations has warned that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could “exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years.” Lack to basic sanitation and healthcare facilities clearly violates the Article 11 that entitles that “Everyone shall have the right to live in a healthy environment and to have access to basic public services.”

The Yemeni forces have resorted to arbitrary detention to supress the freedom of speech and expression. Any journalist, supporter of the political party al-Islah or any other person trying to raise his voice against the discrimination have to face detention, unfair trials, enforced disappearance or even death penalty in many cases. In July 2020, the SCC sentenced to death 30 academics and political figures on trumped-up charges, including espionage for the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, following an unfair trial.[10] The suppression of these rights clearly violates the Article 19 “guaranteeing the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of choice.”

The fatalities due to the civil war and many preventable reasons is unprecedented. UN verified at least, 7,700 civilian deaths by March 2020 with most caused by Saudi-led coalition air strikes. The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) said in October 2019 that “it had recorded more than 100,000 fatalities, including 12,000 civilians killed in direct attacks.” With about 23,000 fatalities, reported in 2019.

Not only the adults but the children, have also become a victim of the bombings. There have been bombings on the school buses as well as schools that itself speaks about the inhumanity of the attacks. As of June 2019, over 7,500 children had been killed in Yemen since the beginning of the war due to airstrikes, shelling, mines, and other ordnance.

Yemen being a party to the Geneva Conventions and an additional Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, which is binding on all groups party to a conflict, and seeks to ensure that forces undertake precautions to avoid killing civilians has to make efforts, take accountability and address the grave human rights violation in Yemen.

Yemen has been going through the conflicts between various groups since a decade, but in the recent four to five years the clashes have intensified. All these conflicts have had a miserable impact on the lives of the citizens, has cost a lot of human lives and peace.

While the organization like United Nations, UNICEF, WHO, World Bank are making efforts to gather funds and provide all financial assistance possible to the nation and the Human Rights Organization like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch are raising voice for the victims in Yemen and making the rest of world aware of the urgency of the situation. The support and resources rendered by the rest of the world is much less than what is required to address the situation. UN Security Council,2020 appeal for Yemen had received only about $1.5bn in donations to date, some 45 percent of the $3.4bn required.

With the country facing grave multiple crisis including a civil war, civil bombings, failure of economy, a cholera outbreak, collapse of the healthcare sector, food insecurity, lack of law and order worsened by the ongoing pandemic the dire need of the hour is to provide utmost attention to the issue or it would lead to thousands of deaths and then there will be no turning point. Adults and children who have been experiencing extreme brutalities won’t be able to hold up well if they are presented with one crisis after the other. Such emotional and mental toll can leave indelible impressions in lives of many people.

Hence we as humans need to address the ongoing crisis in the nation before it becomes a catastrophe. Each one of us can donate a little money, food, clothes, education material, medicines so that the agencies can help out the aggrieved specially in these difficult times. World Health Organization needs to ensure the availability of medical facilities and personnel at the location so that basic health services can be provided to the people as specially the malnourished children.

The nations need to address the human rights violation more seriously and make major efforts to negotiate a deal between the conflicting parties and bring peace to the nation. They further need to control the influence of groups like IS and Al Queda n the country before every child is sacrificed as a soldier to these groups. The agencies need to find out the sources of weapons for the Houthis and must immediately stop any such trade.

The idea of the research article is to provide a look into the daily lives of the citizens of Yemen, surviving in the worst possible human conditions, the seriousness of the situation and a plea to raise voice for their sufferings as they can’t.

Yemen’s Human-Rights Defenders Are Fighting Increasingly Desperate Odds

November 28, 2018

A man looks at damaged buildings after air strikes in Sana’a, Yemen, on May 7, 2018. (AP Photo / Hani Mohammed)

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As one of the most prominent defenders of human rights in Yemen, Radhya Almutawakel is well-acquainted with danger. Working in active war zones in the midst of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Almutawakel has spent years documenting human-rights violations as chairperson of Mwatana, one of the few still-operational civilian organizations in Yemen. In a country where political parties now control the vast majority of NGOs, Mwatana’s nonpartisan reporting has indicted all sides in the conflict. “In Yemen, there are no heroes,” says Almutawakel, who has met with scores of victims of bombings by the Saudi-led coalition, as well as numerous survivors of torture and unlawful detention at the hands of the Yemen government and the country’s main opposition group, known as the Houthis. “It’s a balance of weaknesses, and everyone is committing abuse.”

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Political neutrality is core to Mwatana’s mission, which looks ahead to a postwar Yemen where all sides will be held to account. Yet such impartiality is a perilous endeavor. By refusing to bow to any one faction, Mwatana has attracted retaliation from all sides. “Every day, when I leave my apartment, there’s a small part of me that knows I may not return,” says Osamah Alfakih, former director of research and current director of media, communications, and advocacy for Mwatana. “It’s not just the falling bombs or the land mines—there’s always a possibility for detention, harassment, or even violence as a result of this work.” Many of Alfakih’s 70-plus colleagues have endured abuse, arrest, or long-term detention.

Almutawakel, whose small frame and serene composure belie a steel will, takes the role of Mwatana’s public face in an effort to shield her team from the brunt of this danger. “We try to keep the identities of our members out of the public, for their safety,” she explains. “This work of accountability can make many enemies, very quickly.” Since co-founding Mwatana in 2007, Almutawakel has been subjected to elaborate smear campaigns, detention, numerous death threats, and physical attack. Almutawakel’s father, a longtime political dissident, was assassinated in 2014, while her husband and Mwatana co-founder, Abdulrasheed Alfaqih, has also been a frequent target for harassment and arrest. Both Almutawakel and Alfaqih have been blocked while attempting to move within the country or prevented from traveling abroad. At other times, threats by the various parties controlling Yemen’s airbases have left them functionally exiled while abroad, often separating the two from each other for extended periods of time.

While Almutawakel remains undeterred, she says the country’s deepening chaos has triggered a recent escalation in her opponents’ efforts to silence Mwatana. “The language used against us is much more aggressive than it ever was,” says Almutawakel, who has been accused of everything from betraying Islam to spying for Saudi Arabia to working for the United States. The rhetorical threats are compounded by the suppression of free speech and crackdowns on Yemen’s beleaguered grassroots groups. Almutawakel and Alfaqih have been detained by several warring factions this year, and they report a rise in credible death threats, including several from guerrilla groups. “Everyone is feeling more desperate—especially the people trying to hold on to power,” says Almutawakel. “This can lead to terrible acts. You feel anything could happen.”

Yet the stakes of her work are higher than ever. Three and a half years after the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on Houthi rebels—an attack the Saudis announced from Riyadh’s embassy in Washington, DC—at least 16,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed, mostly by airstrikes, many using US-made weapons (and that figure is almost certainly an undercount). Widespread starvation threatens 13 million more. War and famine, along with economic collapse and the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, have driven the country to its knees. “A generation has been lost to war,” says Almutawakel. “No one is untouched. There’s a sense now that if you’re alive, it’s by accident. Rockets could fall on you anytime, or disease could strike, or hunger could take you.”

The United Nations has identified Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with roughly 22 of the country’s 28 million people in need of aid—but Almutawakel is quick to point out that her country’s suffering is man-made. “This is not a natural disaster. It’s been created by people who are choosing to continue fighting, who are turning a blind eye to the Yemeni people and thinking only about their own political agendas.”

The gravest example of this unnecessary suffering is Yemen’s rampant hunger, which is not due to lack of food but rather the unraveling of the country’s economic and social fabric. Millions have lost their jobs as a result of the war, while thousands more have had their salaries frozen indefinitely. Meanwhile, the war has driven up the price of food, fuel, and other necessities, leaving two-thirds of Yemeni families unsure of their next meal. “After years of war, this starvation has really broken the back of Yemen,” says Almutawakel, her voice straining. “There is no more normal life—life is just a daily struggle to survive. Except for some of the most impoverished people, who don’t even have the privilege to struggle. The ones who are so poor and weak now, the struggle is over for them.”

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There is also mounting evidence that much of the hunger is a result of deliberate strategy. Increasingly, humanitarian experts describe “starvation as a weapon of war” being utilized by numerous parties in the conflict. International aid groups have accused both the Houthis and the coalition forces of obstructing vital humanitarian aid, while foreign observers and press have been all but barred. “All sides in the conflict are responsible for this slow killing, by forcing people into poverty and blocking the aid that could save them,” says Osamah Alfakih. “It is a terrible crime to watch happening. Some days, it is very hard to have hope.”

Almutawakel agrees that hunger is being weaponized against her people, but points out that the most acute suffering could be quickly remedied. “If [the coalition forces and Houthis] had a cease-fire, if they paid salaries and reopened Yemen’s ports and airspaces or just cooperated with aid organizations, these steps would save many lives and relieve so much suffering. This could happen very quickly, if the political parties cared enough about the Yemeni people to take these steps.”

In the meantime, women and children are bearing the brunt of the crisis. According to the United Nations Population Fund, roughly 1.1 million pregnant and lactating women are malnourished as a result of the war, while over 3 million women are vulnerable to gender-based violence. Over half of the 1 million cholera cases reported in Yemen last year were children. Child marriages have risen sharply since the onset of the conflict, while the age of first marriages for girls has dropped, with as many as half of child brides under the age of 15. Marriages are arranged by families, either because of the family’s inability to support their daughters or as a means of acquiring a dowry. And hundreds of children, some as young as 11, have been conscripted as child soldiers.

Amid the desperation, Almutawakel has been forced to reexamine the role of Mwatana. Even as her work documenting human-rights violations grows more dangerous, it has also come to feel like something of a luxury. “There is no time for most people to think about their rights, or the country’s future,” she says. “Most Yemenis are just trying to survive the bombings and starvation. There can be no social or political progress while people are dying this way.”

It was this realization that prompted Almutawakel and her colleagues to shift Mwatana’s strategy. Previously, the group had focused solely on nonpartisan reporting of human-rights abuses, without commenting on politics or policy. Yet Almutawakel says the deepening horror of daily life in Yemen now demands more deliberate advocacy. “We realize this war will never stop until the international community decides to take action. This conflict is being fueled from the outside.” She draws a direct line between the vast suffering of her people and the actions of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other Western nations. “Western countries need to recognize that by arming Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab Emirates], they are directly fueling the war. They should stop this, immediately—they shouldn’t even have to think about it.”

Almutawakel also recognized a troubling absence of Yemeni voices on the global stage. “I realized we needed to represent ourselves to the world, to show the world that most Yemenis are still civilians, and peace is still possible. It’s a matter of will.” In recent years, she has traveled to Europe and the United States to call for action to protect Yemeni lives, emphasizing the need to halt violence and address the humanitarian crisis while pursuing a political solution. In 2017, she became the first Yemeni civilian to speak to the UN Security Council, where she urged the body to recognize the “grave human suffering of millions of Yemenis as a result of the war.”

Almutawakel feels that recent events may offer an unprecedented opportunity to push Western powers in this direction. Since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, many world leaders have been reexamining their ties to the Saudi regime, and to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular. The crown prince, commonly known as “MBS,” has been implicated in the journalist’s killing and is also the director of the Gulf coalition’s military campaign in Yemen. Recent weeks have seen a surge in critical coverage of his role in the growing crisis in Yemen, placing the future of Western military support for the coalition in doubt.

Like many others, Almutawakel has mixed feelings about this sudden change of heart. “It’s a horrible thing that the Saudis did to Khashoggi. But at the same time it shows that the Western powers can take decisive action when they want to. With the atrocities in Yemen, they used to say there was nothing they could do—but they have shown they have the mechanisms to pressure the Saudis when they want to.”

Almutawakel also contends that Washington’s complicity with MBS’s lethal Yemen campaign helped make the murder of Khashoggi a feasible option in the eyes of the crown prince. “For years, he was getting away with this brutal war, causing the death of thousands of Yemenis, and the US kept supporting him. And he also abused the rights of his own people, and the West still said nothing. So I can imagine he felt that the same would happen if he ordered the death of this one man.”

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Since the start of the conflict, both the Obama administration and the Trump White House have tolerated rampant civilian deaths and potential war crimes in Yemen. In late October, facing pressure from Congress and civilian groups to divest from the Yemen war, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would increase its efforts for a cease-fire in Yemen, calling for a halt to hostilities “within 30 days.” His counterpart in Britain, Jeremy Hunt, echoed these sentiments the following day Saudi Arabia promptly responded by ordering an air and ground assault on the Houthi-held port of Hodeida. The date for the proposed negotiations has since been pushed back.

Earlier this month, with evidence of MBS’s guilt in Khashoggi’s death mounting in the pages of the global press, the US and Saudi governments issued joint statements announcing that Washington would no longer refuel Saudi aircraft operating over Yemen. The decision will not affect the volume of US arms sales to the kingdom, however, and the measure is seen by many critics as toothless. “These small steps are not enough,” says Almutawakel, “The US should be taking the lead in moving the world toward peace in Yemen, because they’ve been taking the lead in supporting the war.”

The fact that Yemen remains one of the countries listed in Trump’s notorious travel ban can be taken as another sign of the administration’s disregard for the fate of Yemeni civilians. While Almutawakel was able to obtain a waiver to travel to Washington to accept the Baldwin Medal of Liberty this month, the vast majority of Yemenis around the world remain barred from entering the United States. Meanwhile, Yemenis already here must choose between remaining indefinitely or forfeiting their visas to return home.

Congress members on both sides of the aisle have sharply criticized the ongoing sale of US arms for the war, calling for sanctions against the Saudi state. Currently, the Senate is preparing to vote on a bill, sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee, which would revoke US military support for the war (Congress rejected a similar bipartisan resolution this past March). A growing list of academics, regional experts, humanitarian leaders, and nonprofit organizations have registered their vocal support for the measure, but the proposal faces opposition from hardliners as well as the White House. Pompeo, in an aggressive op-ed published Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, derided “Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on” since the murder of Khashoggi, and argued that “degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies.”

On Wednesday, in prepared remarks released by the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned that “pulling back our limited U.S. military support, our weapons sales to our partners, and our protection of the Saudi and Emirati populations would be misguided on the eve of the promising initial negotiations.” On the same day, Mattis and Pompeo briefed senators on the Yemen war in a closed-door meeting ahead of an impending vote on the Sanders-Murphy-Lee bill.

Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed admirer of MBS, has alternated between threatening retaliation for Khashoggi’s murder and lauding US-Saudi arms sales—and thus good relations with the crown prince—as indispensable. On November 20, Trump gave what appeared to be his final words on the subject, dismissing the CIA’s conclusion that MBS must have been involved in Khashoggi’s killing. He then reaffirmed the US commitment to “remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia.” Like many, Almutawakel saw Trump’s comments as an affront to justice, calling the comment “insulting not only for the victims but for his country and people. He was saying frankly that only money matters.”

Even so, other nations are taking more meaningful measures to curtail the conflict. August 2018 saw the release of the first report on possible war crimes in Yemen, the result of an investigation commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council. The report, written by the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen, accused multiple parties, including the Gulf-led coalition as well as the government of Yemen, of “violations and crimes under international law” which “may, subject to determination by an independent and competent court, amount to international crimes.” The release of the report infuriated Saudi Arabia and its key coalition partner, the United Arab Emirates, which attempted to block the renewal of the group’s mandate. Despite aggressive pressure from the Gulf states, the Council voted 21-8 to extend the report another year. Almutawakel, who worked for years to garner support for such an investigation, sees the renewal of the group’s mandate as a sign of shifting tides. “The Saudis saw the renewal as a slap in the face—it shows them the international community is taking steps to hold them accountable.”

Other governments have also made unilateral attempts to increase pressure on Saudi Arabia—Germany, Finland, and Denmark being notable examples—but Almutawakel’s eyes are on the United States, United Kingdom, and France. These nations are the top three arms exporters to Saudi Arabia, and she worries that a failure to properly censure MBS could have lethal implications for years to come. “MBS is watching to see if the US will really take a stand. If the US, the UK, and France don’t show themselves to be strong in this moment, it will be a very scary thing for the world. MBS will take this as permission to keep doing what he wishes. This would be terrible for Yemenis, for Saudis, and for human-rights workers everywhere, long into the future.”

This concern for the future is what keeps Mwatana at work, despite the odds. “Our efforts have always been focused on how we will rebuild Yemen one day,” says Alfakih. “That is why we are documenting everything we can, to keep the voices of victims from being lost, so they can have justice one day, somehow.” For Almutawakel, much will hinge on the coming months. “Peace is always possible, because Yemenis want to live. They are strong, and they love life. What I’m afraid of is what the rest of the world will do. Will they listen, and will they do the right thing?”

European involvement in the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

While the US is considered the biggest supporter of the Saudi led war in Yemen they are far from the only western actor involved in supplying arms and support to the coalition despite their intimate knowledge of the extremely high civilian casualties and deliberate tactics employed by the coalition to starve Yemen into submission. France, Spain, Italy and Germany have all supplied weapons, logistical support, and training, to varying degrees, to the Saudi led coalition and are no less guilty than the US or UK for fueling, enabling, and supporting a war that has led to the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history.

French involvement in the ongoing war in Yemen is so extensive it would be difficult to argue that they are not co-belligerents. The French government is well aware of this fact and have done all they can to downplay their involvement in crimes against humanity. This is supported by the fact that the French government was caught in a lie, they claimed that French weapons sold to coalition members were only being used against armed combatants despite the leak of a classified French Military Intelligence (DRM) report that detailed the use of French weapons by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to massacre civilians. Despite mounting criticism of the French government for its involvement in the war the population of France is largely unaware of France’s involvement and the French government has continued to sign arms deals to sell state of the art equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and has continued to train and logistically support Saudi troops.

To make matters worse there are credible reports that France has deployed special forces to Yemen alongside UAE forces although the French Ministry of Defense denies these allegations. This is especially troubling as UAE ground forces have been accused of setting up prison camps where mass sexual assault and torture are used on civilian prisoners who have not been tried.

When questioned French government officials have three main talking points they employ, first they claim that the Houthis backed by Iran started the war and they are simply defending the legitimate government of Yemen, second, they claim that weapons sent to the coalition were part of an arms deal signed before the conflict in Yemen began which is an easily disprovable lie as the most recent arms deal between France and coalition members was signed in 2018, third they claim the weapons they send to the gulf are only used for defensive purposes and never against civilians which is another easily disprovable lie as French artillery has been regularly used to back up coalition forces in Yemen with an estimated 436,000 civilians potentially affected by artillery fire and the classified DRM report mentioned above states otherwise. Even if all the claims made by the French government were true the fact remains that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been responsible for countless human rights violations and hundreds of thousands of deaths since the war began and selling them weapons in any capacity with full knowledge of their conduct in Yemen is akin to excusing their conduct.

While the Spanish government is less involved in the war in Yemen than the US or France their hands are by no means clean. Spain has secretly sold US made bombs to the Saudis in a deal that was finalized in 2015 under the government of Rajoy. When Rajoy’s government was voted out in favor of the Socialist Party (PSOE) which immediately tried to cancel the deal. In response to the cancellation of the deal Saudi Arabia threatened to cancel all contracts with Spain which led to a public protest by Spanish workers which in turn forced the government to honor the original agreement. According to a high ranking official in former PM Rajoy’s party the arms deal was never meant to be good business as Spain will actually pay more for the bombs then they will get from the deal, the entire point of the deal was to show political support for the Saudi coalition.

Despite the loss taken on this particular deal Spain still sells hundreds of millions of Euros worth of weapons to the Saudi coalition, ranking as the 4th largest provider of arms to Saudi Arabia after the US, France, and the UK. For example Spain has signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia for 2 billion Euros over five years in exchange for five corvettes (mid-sized warships) which will almost certainly be used to maintain the blockade that the coalition has imposed on Yemen.

Another country which has contributed to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, is Italy, primarily though their arms trade with the Saudi-led coalition. The Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition has been responsible for numerous indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes against civilians and civilians objects amounting to war crimes. The coalition has received immense support from foreign countries including Italy. Remnants of weapons manufactured in Italy have been found at sites of potential war crimes in Yemen.

The issue of European Countries’ involvement has even been brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) when several NGOs called for an investigation into the responsibility of corporate and governmental actors in Italy, Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed a communication together with the NGO Mwatana for Human Rights, and Italian group Rete Disarmo which raised the question responsibility of European and Italian arms companies. It also touched upon the accountability of the Italian authorities for issuing export licences. In particular, the communications focused on several European countries including Spain, Germany, France, the UK and Italy and provided factual information on 26 air strikes. According to Italian Law 185/1990, arms export “to countries engaged in armed conflict” is prohibited. Regardless of this nationaltion law as well as their obligations under EU rules and the Internationals Arms Trade Treaty, which was unanimously raitified by the Italian Parliament, Italy continues to export weapons to the coalition forces.

Germany, a country which prides itself on its restrictive export policies, has also played a significant role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition. In the third fiscal quarter of 2017, Germany’s weapons sales to Saudi Arabia totalled to almost 450 million euro which is approximately $550 million. German-made arms and technology have been involved the war in Yemen, in the air, at sea and on land. Strangely, German arms guidelines expressly forbid weapons export to countries that are involved in armed conflict.

Previously, the government continuously denied knowledge of German weapons and technology present in Yemen used by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In early 2018, Germany signed a coalition agreement which explicitly prohibited approval of weapons export to any country directly involved in the war in Yemen but reports showed that export to Saudi Arabia and to the UAE continued regardless. Despite the signing of this coalition agreement, Germany approved exports for 416 million euros to Saudi Arabia, and export worth more than 40 million euros to the UAE. The fact that Germany continued to export weapons is partly due to the important role that the UAE plays in the Arabian Peninsula according to the German Foreign Office. In the air war, German technology has played a rather important role. Although the Saudi Air Force acquired their fighter jets from the US, Germany played a role in the manufacturing of several components of the vessels.

However, in January 2020, Germany announcing that it would stop all arms export to countries involved in the war in Yemen. In march 2020, Germany extended a full arms export ban to Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalists, Jamal Khashoggi. With this move, Germany was the only European country to impose an arms sales ban on Saudi Arabia

The war in Yemen has resulted in countless civilian casualties. Considered to be the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen called for an end to the multi-billion-dollar arms trade between Western countries and the coalition forces specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE. As shown above, multiple European countries have provided the coalition forces with assistance through a manner of ways thus none of these countries have clean hands. Gross human rights violations have taken place within a culture of impunity and none of the parties have been held accountable for the atrocious crimes that they have committed or that they have contributed to via their actions. With more than 10,000 people who have died over the course of this crisis, these countries have to stop providing assistance and support to the Saudi-led coalition.


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