Yemen: serious violations of IHL against civilians during 2021

A local Yemeni girl on Socotra Island A local Yemeni girl on Socotra Island © Andrew Svk on Unsplash

This is a brief presentation of the press briefing on the situation of human rights in Yemen in 2021

The Mwatana for Human Rights organization conducted a study on the situation of human rights in Yemen throughout the year 2021. Mwatana is an independent organization established in 2007 aiming to support human rights in Yemen. The present study released in January 2022 offers an overview of the impact the armed conflict in Yemen has had on the civilian population and its rights.

The armed conflict in Yemen broke out in September 2014 when the group of Houthis and forces loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh took control of Sana’a, the capital of the country. Since then, violence has escalated when the Saudi–UAE led coalition launched its military operations. The data contained in the press briefing intend to show a high-profile pattern of violations against civilians. Broadly speaking, the organization documented 839 incidents of harm to civilians and civilian objects in which more than 782 civilians were killed and injured between January and December 2021. The majority of these violations amount to war crimes and serious violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

In great detail, violence started to escalate in Ma’rib through ground attacks, airstrikes and landmines laying by the Saudi–UAE led coalition. These attacks continued to kill civilians and civilian objects. In particular, the airstrikes killed at least 17 civilians and at least 43 civilians were wounded. The study also documented significant damage to civilians and civilian objects caused by ground attacks. About 64 ground shelling killed 49 people. Moreover, 36 mine explosion incidents killed approximately 23 civilians and 47 unexploded ordnance incidents killed approximately 23 civilians. 

The study also found that 121 children (88%) were recruited and used by the Houthis, whereas those recruited by the government were 8% and children taken by the Saudi–UAE led coalition reached 2%. The organization reported at least 86 incidents involving the denial of humanitarian access intended for humanitarian aid and basic material. 

Multiple attacks occurred against African migrants and refugees, but also against schools and the health care system. Mwatana registered 82 attacks against schools for military purposes and 20 attacks against the healthcare system. 

Moreover, the organization exposes the most serious violations of IHL. It documented 26 incidents of torture for 40 civilian victims; 10 incidents of sexual violence; 41 incidents of enforced disappearance. In particular, 41 incidents were registered against 89 civilians. Furthermore, the Houthis committed nine executions. 

Mwatana documented 131 arbitrary detention incidents involving 217 victims, to whom the organization provided legal support. Many other attacks occurred against civilians who were killed and injured in a variety of ways. For example, 53 civilians were killed by live ammunition and 142 civilians were wounded.

Acts of violence were also committed against the press. The parties to the conflict continued to commit arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, inhuman treatment and torture against journalists. Mwatana documented 4 violation incidents that affected 5 journalists and media workers. Many violations occurred against minorities as well as incidents of restriction on the freedom of movement. 

Mwatana found two cases of assault on peaceful assembly in which the government forces arrested 15 protesters. Not even women were spared. Many violations that occurred against women and girls escalated. The organization registered 11 incidents against women in two days, restricting their freedom of movement. 


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Author: Valentina Di Carlantonio

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