Yemen: Fanning the flames of the conflict

22/03/2016
Press release
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© AHMAD AL-BASHA / AFP

As Yemenis mark one year since the Saudi Arabia-led coalition began military operations in Yemen, and as
civilian suffering caused by the warring parties grows in scale and severity, we, the eight undersigned
organizations
call on all governments to:

- Cease the supply of any weapons, munitions, and related military equipment to parties to the
conflict in Yemen where there is a substantial risk of these arms being used in Yemen to commit or
facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

A year since the coalition entered the conflict, the United Nations Secretary-General has said that
“Yemen is in flames and awash with weapons.” Providing weapons and materiel to factions that are
known to have repeatedly violated the laws of war may make the arms suppliers complicit in those
factions’ crimes and will further fan the flames of atrocities. The international community has an
obligation to take measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian and human rights law.
In particular, States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty and members of the European Union are
required to assess objectively the risk of a potential arms transfer to any party to the Yemen conflict
being used to commit or facilitate a serious violation. If the risk is clear and substantial the transfer
must not be allowed. In any case States should ensure, at a minimum, that there is a legally-binding
guarantee, backed by sanctions, that the end use will be consistent with international law,
particularly international humanitarian and human rights law.

- Support a credible, independent, international mechanism to investigate allegations of serious
violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed in Yemen with a view to
ensuring that victims of violations are provided redress, and those suspected of crimes are brought
to justice in fair trials.

Background

Yemen’s armed conflict has been devastating on the civilian population, the civilian infrastructure, and the
country’s cultural heritage. In the past year, more than 3,000 civilians have been killed. Insecurity resulting
from airstrikes and ground attacks and from restrictions on humanitarian access and imports of vital
commercial supplies have contributed to a situation where 21 million people – 82% of Yemen’s pre-war
population – are now in need of humanitarian assistance.

On March 26, 2015, the 9-country coalition led by Saudi Arabia, along with forces loyal to President Abd
Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, began an aerial and ground campaign against Ansar Allah, known as the Houthis, and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The fighting has since extended to much of the country and to neighboring Saudi Arabia, and has included various local armed factions and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Mwatana have documented dozens of coalition airstrikes that have resulted in indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks killing civilians in violation of international humanitarian law. The Houthis and other armed groups have been responsible for numerous violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses.

Violations documented in detail include:

- Coalition airstrikes across Yemen in apparent violation of international humanitarian law that have
killed several hundred civilians. Strikes against populated residential areas, hospitals, schools, markets and mosques may constitute war crimes [1]. The UN Panel of Experts documented 119 coalition sorties
relating to violations of international humanitarian law [2].
- The coalition’s repeated use of internationally-banned cluster munitions causing civilian casualties and
posing both an immediate and long term threat to civilians in the form of unexploded ordnance [3].
- Indiscriminate ground attacks by Houthi and allied forces killing and wounding civilians in Yemen as
well as civilians in border towns within Saudi Arabia in violation of international humanitarian law [4].
- Use by Houthi and allied forces of internationally-banned antipersonnel mines [5].
- The Houthis and allied forces endangering the lives of thousands of civilians in the southern city of
Ta’iz by blocking the entry of crucial medical supplies and food [6].

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