The warring parties’ practices undermined civilian life in Yemen for the fifth year in a row, while steps to deter or call perpetrators to account remained woefully lacking, Mwatana for Human Rights said today while launching its 2018 annual report. The unacceptably high rate of violations in Yemen highlights the urgent need for the Human Rights Council to create a Commission of Inquiry this September.
Mwatana’s annual report, _Withering Life: The Human Rights Situation in Yemen 2018, _is based on field research and investigations conducted by Mwatana for Human Rights. Mwatana conducted 2,065 interviews in Arabic with victims, relatives, eyewitnesses, and medical and humanitarian workers for the report.
Parties to the conflict gravely exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. Airstrikes and shelling killed and wounded civilians, and hit schools, hospitals, healthcare facilities, and medical personnel. The armed group Ansar Allah (Houthis), UAE proxy forces, Yemeni government forces disappeared, tortured and arbitrarily detained scores. Saudi Arabia detained and abused Yemeni fishermen inside Saudi Arabia. The Houthi armed group laid anti-personnel mines. Both sides recruited children. US drone strikes killed and wounded civilians. Incidents of sexual violence started to surface.
“The warring parties are undermining Yemeni civilian and civic life every day this war continues,” said Radhya Al Mutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights. “Civilians are drowning in agony while states hesitate to take urgently needed action, like ending military support to warring parties and supporting accountability. Yemenis deserve a chance at life—and at peace—as much as anyone else.”
States cannot address the humanitarian crisis without addressing the human rights crisis, Mwatana said. Blocking, obstructing and impeding humanitarian aid and critical life-saving goods has a particularly acute impact, given the millions of civilians already living under the threat of famine. Mwatana documented 74 cases of obstructing humanitarian access and aid—with Ansar Allah (Houthis) responsible for the majority. Yemeni government and coalition forces also obstructed aid.
People’s ability to move freely inside and outside Yemen has decreased dramatically throughout the conflict. Security checkpoints—notably in Marib, Taizz, Al Bayda, Al Dhale and Lahj—occasionally discriminate based on travelers’ identity or financially exploit them, in a context where millions are already struggling to feed themselves and their families. The Saudi/UAE-led coalition still refuses to re-open Sanaa airport—nearly three years after shuttering it.
The failure to hold the Houthi armed group, the Saudi/UAE-led coalition and other armed actors accountable has meant that the same abuses Yemeni civilians suffered in the beginning of the conflict continue until this day. The Human Rights Council’s creation of the Group of Eminent Experts in 2017 was an important step towards accountability, but the gravity of the human rights and humanitarian crises in Yemen requires more to be done, including the creation of a Commission of Inquiry.
The Houthi armed group has laid antipersonnel and antivehicle landmines since the early days of the war. Mines have played a significant part in the battle for Yemen’s western coast and have gravely impacted civilians across the country. In 2018 alone, Mwatana documented 52 landmines cases, killing at least 60 civilians, including 8 women and 26 children, and wounding at least 51 others, including 12 women and 21 children.
Coalition airstrikes on civilians have not stopped. Mwatana documented about 150 coalition airstrikes in 11 governorates in 2018 that killed at least 375 civilians, including 165 children, and wounded 427 others, including 172 children. The attacks damaged private property and critical infrastructure, and struck residential neighborhoods, villages, roads, markets, commercial facilities, boats, and civilian vehicles.
Both the Houthi armed group and forces loyal to the coalition and Yemeni government continued to launch indiscriminate ground attacks, and to recruit children. The Houthi armed group was responsible for the vast majority of the 1,117 child recruitment cases Mwatana documented in 2018, but Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces and forces loyal to President Hadi also used children. Coalition proxy forces have been implicated in a range of abuses—from torture to sexual violence against kids. The US continued to carry out drone attacks in Yemen that killed and wounded civilians.
Arbitrary detentions, disappearances and torture, in some cases, leading to death, continued across the country. People have been detained and tried in court for their religious beliefs, and others have been detained because of their media work. While the majority of victims of detention-related abuses were men, women have also been detained, mistreated, and sentenced to death following unfair trials. States should prioritize pressuring the warring parties to release the arbitrarily detained, to resolve disappearances and to improve detention conditions, Mwatana said.
The space Yemenis had for expression, opposition, and voicing critical opinions before the conflict has been all but closed. States interested in rebuilding Yemen after the conflict should support civil society now, before it is destroyed, Mwatana said.
“The longer states wait to hold Saudi, Emirati, and Yemeni war criminals—on both the Houthi and Hadi sides—accountable, the more difficult it will be to rebuild Yemen,” Al Mutawakel said. “The virtual impunity that currently reigns emboldens the warring parties to keep carrying out awful abuses, destroying Yemen in the process.”
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In Paris, Radhya Al Mutawakel, Chairperson, Mwatana for Human Rights (English, Arabic):
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