Mwatana Organization: Violations by Internal Armed Conflict Parties in Taiz May Amount to War Crimes
Mwatana Organization for Human Rights has declared that the parties to the conflict involved in the armed ground conflict in Taiz governorate south Yemen, have committed a list of appalling grave human rights violations. The violations resulted in hundreds of killed and injured civilians and damaging the lives of thousands of the city’s residents in a manner that is clear to be a violation of the International Humanitarian Law since fighting broke out late March 2015.
Mwatana Organization has demanded all ground conflict sides to immediately quit violating the International Humanitarian Law and to quit causing damage to the lives of civilians. The organization also demanded avoiding the targeting of civilian sites, which in the case of being attacked, besieged or used as military locations can cause civilian losses.
Radhya al-Mutawakel, chairperson of Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, says: “What the conflict sides are doing to the city of Taiz and its civilian residents presents grave violations of the International Humanitarian Law and may amount to war crimes.”
Al-Mutawakel emphasizes that the conflict sides must acknowledge their responsibility for all the crimes they have committed and that they must stop jeopardizing the lives of civilians for political or military gains on the account of the blood, the displacement and the damage of the lives of the innocent.
She adds: “The international community has to prove its credibility and seriousness in regards to standing by the side of civilians in Taiz in specific and in Yemen in general. The grave violations of the International Humanitarian Law in Taiz present one of the most critical reasons to establish an international independent mechanism to investigate the violations committed by all conflict sides. This is needed in order to preserve the rights of victims and guarantee justice for them as well as to end impunity policies.”
The report that Mwatana Organization has released documents scores of incidents where the International Humanitarian Law was violated by the conflict sides since the outbreak of clashes in Taiz in late March 2015. The clashes have been taking place between the first conflict side, which includes militants of the armed group Ansar Allah (Houthis), who are fighting alongside the forces of their ally former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the second conflict side; groups of the “popular resistance”, who are fighting alongside army forces loyal to Yemeni president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The report titled: “Chapters from Hell” contains (177) incidents, investigated by Mwatana Organization, where the International Humanitarian Law was violated. These incidents provide a documentation of cases of hundreds of civilians who were killed and injured due to the armed ground conflict. Both sides of the conflict and their allies share responsibility for deploying and locating in the middle of civilian residential sites where attacks are launched from and on these sites. Consequently, thousands of civilians found themselves stuck in the middle of the two conflict sides where they face various violations.
Among the most apparent violations are those presented in killing, maiming, attacking medical staff and medical facilities, targeting schools and occupying them for military purposes and military recruitment of children in addition to Ansar Allah group forcing a suffocating blockade from time to time on the city to block entry of medical and humanitarian relief and aid. Similarly, the popular resistance assaulted relief organizations and humanitarian aid warehouses and carried out field executions.
The report reveals that Mwatana Organization for Human Rights has documented scores of serious violations that caused the killing of (217) civilians among whom are (87) children and (32) women. Furthermore, (479) civilians were injured including (189) children and (48) women between the period of March 2015 and April 2016.
The research Mwatana Organization did shows that Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) and forces loyal to former president Saleh are responsible for the majority of indiscriminate and bloody attacks launched on residential areas that are under control of the popular resistance and forces loyal to president Hadi in the city of Taiz.
The report sheds light on a sample of incidents, which Mwatana Organization investigated, that involve (32) indiscriminate attacks and (22) shooting incidents where bullets and anti-aircraft ammunition were fired and resulted in killing (103) civilians among whom are (50) children and (14) women. As a result of these shootings, (229) civilians were injured including (98) children and (16) women in the period between April 2015 and March 2016.
These attacks and incidents reached civilian targets where people lead ordinary life activities at houses, markets, public streets, residential areas and vital facilities.
The documentation of incidents during the period covered by the report includes at least (425) interviews conducted by Mwatana Organization in Arabic with victims who survived, relatives of victims, eyewitnesses as well as humanitarian and medical staff. Mwatana’s investigative team has also collected around (55) field observations of cases where children were recruited and mobilized for military purposes.
The report includes (9) incidents where field executions were carried out by the popular resistance forces during varying periods. The executions took place in areas that the popular resistance restored militarily as they were previously controlled by Ansar Allah armed group and Saleh’s forces. Also, the report contains (4) incidents of assaults on relief organizations as well as robberies of humanitarian aid warehouses committed by the popular resistance.
The report “Chapters from Hell” includes (31) incidents of assaults and shelling on hospitals and medical facilities as well as robbery of hospitals property. These incidents resulted in killing (2) and injuring (7) others all of who are medical staff as well as recipients of medical treatment and their attendants and including one incident of kidnapping (2) medical workers.
The report also points to the documentation of (27) cases of children’s recruitment for military purposes that were carried out by Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) and (28) cases carried out by the popular resistance.
The report observes that at least (24) schools were damaged due to either shelling or occupation for military purposes during the period of conflict in Taiz. Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) occupied at least (7) schools while the popular resistance occupied at least (7) other schools. The two sides alternated in occupying at least (7) schools (which are currently occupied by the popular resistance). This makes the total number of schools that are currently occupied by the popular resistance (14). In addition, three schools were damaged as a result of attacks launched during the war.
An analysis of the remnants of weapons used in indiscriminate attacks is included in the report based on a geographic analysis of areas where the fighting sides are have control or are deployed within the city.
The report presents recommendations to the conflict sides as well as national, regional and international actors that must be considered in order to put an end to civilians falling as victims of the current conflict in Yemen.
The report strongly emphasizes the demand to establish an international independent mechanism to investigate all conflict sides’ violations in Yemen.