Human Rights Watch sees war crimes in Yemen

Human Rights Watch on June 30 issued a new report charging violations of international humanitarian law in the Saudi-led air campaign against Shi'ite rebels in Yemen. Numerous apparently deliberate attacks on residential homes and civilian infrastructure are documented in the report, "Targeting Saada," which details air-strikes on the Shi'ite-stronghold city of that name. HRW compiled the names and ages of 59 people killed in aerial attacks in Saada between April 6 and May 11, including 14 women and 35 children. Local Houthi authorities told HRW that coalition aircraft struck the city's electricity station, public water works, facroties, markets, an empty school, a crowded petrol station, and a wheat storage facility.

On March 26, a nine-member coalition of states led by Saudi Arabia began an air campaign in Yemen against the forces of Ansar Allah—commonly known as the Houthis—which had taken control of the capital, Sanaa, and swept south threatening to take the port city of Aden. Coalition air-strikes have targeted a number of cities and towns under control of the Houthis. Among the hardest hit has been Saada, a Houthi stronghold in north Yemen that is normally home to about 50,000. The coalition has extensively bombed the city: satellite imagery shows over 210 distinct impact locations in built-up areas of the city consistent with aerial bombardment. These attacks have damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings.

HRW conducted field investigations in Saada in mid May, during a five-day ceasefire, interviewing local residents and examining impact craters and dozens of buildings damaged or destroyed by air-strikes. While many air-strikes were directed at military targets in the city, HRW identified several attacks that appeared to violate international humanitarian law, and resulted in numerous civilian deaths and injuries.

On May 8, a coalition spokesman announced that the entire city of Saada was a military target. HRW charges that this not only violated the laws-of-war prohibition against placing civilians at particular risk by treating distinct military objectives in a populated area as a single target, but possibly also the prohibition against making threats of violence whose purpose is to instill terror in the civilian population. (HRW, June 30)

  1. Yemen president backs out of negotiations with rebels

    The president of Yemen on Sept. 13 backed out of talks arranged by the UN with Shiite rebels. It was announced by his office that there would be no talks until the rebels accept a UN resolution that would require them to remove themselves from areas they've seized and return all weapons taken from state institutions. President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, although exiled, is still internationally recognized as the country's president. He is planning to return to the city of Aden at the end of the month, after the Eid al-Adha holiday. Over 200 troops from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen have been sent to Aden over the past two weeks to help secure the area in preparation for the return of Hadi's government. (Jurist, Sept. 13)