Yemen

A Tragedy Without Justice: Human Rights in Yemen in 2020

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The war in Yemen is entering its seventh year. Throughout the conflict, devastation, destruction, division, horrific violations and deepening social rifts have created an almost complete separation between Yemeni men and women and their inherent rights to life, dignity and freedom, while the country experiences the most severe man-made humanitarian disaster.

In this annual report, Mwatana for Human Rights provides an extensive review of particular violations that occurred and the overall human rights situation in Yemen during 2020. Mwatana, whose work covers all Yemeni governorates, has documented—through fact-finding, evidence examination, and detailed research—hundreds of incidents that appear to violate international humanitarian law and international human rights lawome of which may amount to war crimes. The report presents some incidents as examples, highlighting different types of abuse committed by the warring parties.

The parties to the conflict in Yemen continued to commit grave violations, undermining Yemenis’ ability to live, in flagrant disregard of the basic rules of international law and humanitarian standards. The warring parties, including the Saudi/UAE-led coalition as well as armed groups on the ground, such as Ansar Allah group (Houthis), have increasingly resorted to bureaucratic measures and other restrictions that have prevented basic items necessary for survival reaching vulnerable groups. Saudi/UAE-led coalition air strikes caused heavy loss of life and damage to vital infrastructure in the country. As documented in this report, ground attacks with indiscriminate and highly inaccurate weapons, like mortars, on populated areas by the Ansar Allah group (Houthis), government forces, and armed groups loyal to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition have caused significant material damage and loss of life. The landmines and booby traps left by the Ansar Allah group (Houthis) have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, including women and children.

The report includes incidents highlighting the harsh conditions of detention, including the atrocious practices of torture and other forms of inhumane treatment, by the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council forces and Ansar Allah group (Houthis), as well as forces affiliated with the Hadi government. In 2020, Mwatana documented a significantly higher number of incidents of civilians who experienced various forms of torture in detention centers run by the forces of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council. Unofficial detention sites and detention centers remain overcrowded, holding both civilian detainees and combatants.

During 2020, Mwatana for Human Rights provided legal support to victims of arbitrary detention in 19 Yemeni governorates through the work of 23 field lawyers who provided assistance and legal counselling in 541 incidents. The team’s continuous follow-up aimed to secure the release of victims of arbitrary detention, or improve conditions of detention, for example, the person’s environment or access to medication, etc., as well as pushing for detention procedures to proceed in accordance with national and international laws. During 2020, 277 people who had been arbitrarily detained and whose detentions were documented by Mwatana during the conflict were released, including detainees to whom Mwatana provided legal support. Many victims of detention-related abuse remain in detention.

The Ansar Allah group (Houthis), government forces and armed entities loyal to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition have been recruiting and using children in combat, security and logistical operations. In addition, Mwatana found an increase, compared to 2019, in the number of documented sexual violence incidents.

The report includes incidents of attacks on hospitals and medical staff. Strikingly, Mwatana documented more than double the number of these incidents by the parties to the conflict in 2020 than in 2019. The warring parties bear responsibility for the incessant damage to the already dilapidated medical sector during a time of extremely dangerous humanitarian conditions due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The report also includes documented attacks on schools and educational facilities, including various forms of attack and abuse, such as air and ground strikes, and military occupation and use.

The report also includes, for the first time, one chapter dedicated to other ways in which the warring parties have harmed civilians, including through the use of live ammunition and hitting civilians with military vehicles, as civilians continue to be killed and wounded by warring parties in various ways, and the report seeks to highlight some of these patterns of civilian harm.

In its annual report, Mwatana has also devoted space to illustrate conduct that affected the rights and civil liberties of Yemenis during 2020. The warring parties continued committing violations against journalists and media professionals. The parties also restricted freedom of movement and subjected civilians to additional arbitrary restrictions that deepened their suffering. The UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council and government forces used force to break up peaceful gatherings.

Finally, the report sheds light on the human rights situation in regards freedom of belief in Yemen, and devotes a chapter of the report to addressing attacks on personal freedoms by the parties to the conflict during 2020.