On April 1, the United Nations announced that it had brokered a two-month truce agreement between the Houthi armed group and the Saudi and United Arab Emirates-led coalition. While the truce was renewed for an additional two months on June 2 and August 2, on October 2, parties to the conflict failed to renew the temporary ceasefire. While the truce was in effect, violations and abuses persisted in Yemen, including unlawful attacks that killed civilians; restrictions on freedom of movement and humanitarian access to and from Taizz, Yemen’s third-largest city; arbitrary detention; and forced internal displacement.
After more than seven years, the protracted conflict in Yemen has led to one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with more than 20 million Yemenis in need of assistance and suffering from inadequate food, health care, and infrastructure. The conflict has included unlawful attacks against civilian objects such as homes, hospitals, schools, and bridges, which were carried out deliberately and indiscriminately. Fighting has internally displaced more than 4 million people from their homes. There has been virtually no accountability for violations committed by parties to the conflict. Food insecurity, already on the rise, was further exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
In late January 2022, the Saudi and UAE-led coalition carried out three attacks in Sanaa, Hodeidah, and Saada in apparent violation of the laws of war that resulted in at least 80 apparently civilian deaths, including three children, and 156 injuries, including two children. The coalition attacks were in apparent retaliation for Houthi attacks on the UAE on January 17.
On January 17, coalition airstrikes destroyed two residential buildings and killed Houthi Brig. Gen. Abdullah al-Junid and nine other people, including two women, who a survivor and two other witnesses said were civilians. Nine other civilians were also injured, including three women.
On January 20, a coalition airstrike hit a telecommunication building in Hodeidah, destroying it, in an apparently disproportionate attack targeting critical infrastructure. Internet monitoring tools reported that from approximately 1:00 a.m. on January 21 until January 25 there was a near-total internet blackout in Yemen. The attack killed five civilians who were nearby, including three children, and injured 20 others, including two children, according to relatives of victims.
On January 21, coalition airstrikes targeted a Houthi-controlled detention facility in Saada governorate. A photograph of a remnant from one of the munitions used in the attack included markings indicating that it was a laser-guided missile kit manufactured by the US defense contractor Raytheon. The Saudi and United Arab Emirates-led coalition stated that the attack was on a military facility. However, Mwatana for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch found no evidence to support that claim. Houthi forces guarding the facility also shot at detainees trying to flee, killing and injuring dozens.
Despite the truce, on July 23, the Houthis apparently shelled a residential neighborhood in Taizz, killing one child and wounding 11 others who were reportedly playing at the time. The UN special envoy condemned the attack.
Children and Armed Conflict
Yemen’s protracted armed conflict and humanitarian crisis severely impact children: 13 million children in Yemen need humanitarian assistance, 2 million are internally displaced, and more than 10,200 children have been killed or maimed, according to UNICEF. Education and health services for children have been disrupted by damage to schools and hospitals caused by fighting. Yemen’s laws explicitly permit corporal punishment of children in the home.
The Houthis and the Saudi and UAE-led coalition have committed serious violations against children throughout the war. Indiscriminate attacks have destroyed schools and hospitals and killed or injured thousands of children. The Houthis have recruited thousands of children as soldiers and pro-government Yemeni forces have also deployed children into combat.
In the last week of July, 38 children were killed or injured by the parties to the conflict, the highest number of child casualties in one week since early 2020, according to Save the Children.
In April, the Houthis signed an action plan with the United Nations to strengthen protection of children, and pledging to end recruitment and use of children as soldiers, killing and maiming of children, and attacks against schools and hospitals.
Casualties as a result of landmines and unexploded ordinance rose, despite the truce agreement. In July, UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg said that civilian casualties from landmines rose because “civilians moved through areas that were previously inaccessible due to fighting before the truce.”
Save the Children found that landmines and unexploded ordnance were the largest killers of children since the start of the truce agreement. More than 42 children were apparently killed and injured by landmines and unexploded munitions between April and the end of June.
From mid-2019 to early August 2022, Yemeni Landmine Records documented 426 civilian deaths as a result of mines, including improvised explosive devices, and unexploded ordnance. Houthi forces have used antipersonnel landmines in violation of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, to which Yemen is a party, and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has used internationally banned cluster munitions.
Arbitrary Detentions, Torture, and Enforced Disappearances
All parties to the conflict, including Houthi forces, the Yemeni government, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and various UAE and Saudi-backed Yemeni armed groups have arbitrarily arrested, forcibly disappeared, tortured, and ill-treated people across Yemen. Hundreds of Yemenis have been detained at official and unofficial detention centers across the country.
On August 6, security forces apparently affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a secessionist organization in southern Yemen, detained Yemeni journalist Ahmed Maher from his home in the southern port city of Aden, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. On September 4, the STC released a video of Maher bearing signs of possible torture and ill-treatment, during which he confessed to assassinations and other serious crimes.
Amnesty International reported that detained journalist Tawfiq Al Mansouri was denied urgently needed medical care in detention. The Houthis detained Al Mansouri in 2015 and have been denying his requests for a hospital transfer since 2020.
Blocking and Impeding Humanitarian Access
The Houthis and the Yemeni government impose unnecessary restrictions and regulations on humanitarian organizations and aid projects, creating lengthy delays.
On May 16, the first commercial flight in six years departed Sanaa, as part of the UN-backed truce which included an agreement to reopen Sanaa International Airport for commercial flights. By mid-August, more than 15,000 passengers had traveled to and from Sanaa on 31 round-trip flights.
Despite UN efforts, there was little progress on opening the roads in and around Taizz, Yemen’s third-largest city. Houthi forces continued to close the vital roads, violating freedom of movement and further contributing to the already grave humanitarian crisis in Taizz. The main roads in and out of the city of Taizz have been closed since 2015 by Houthi forces, severely restricting freedom of movement for civilians and impeding the flow of essential goods, medicine, and humanitarian access to the city’s residents.
The two-month truce, which started April 2, included a provision for the special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, to “invite the parties to a meeting to agree on opening roads in Taiz and other governorates to facilitate the movement of civilian men, women, and children.” On July 3, the Office of the Special Envoy shared plans for a phased reopening of the roads in Taizz to help alleviate civilian suffering. But the Houthi authorities rejected the proposal, prompting rare criticism by the European Union delegation to Yemen, which said that “the EU deeply regrets a rejection by the Houthis of the latest proposal.”
On July 26, hundreds of Yemenis took to the streets in Taizz to protest the Houthi authorities’ refusal to open the main roads.
Environment and Human Rights
On June 13, the UN announced that salvage operations for the FSO Safer, a supertanker moored off the coast of Hodeida, could not begin due to insufficient funding, and opened a US$20 million crowdfunding campaign to make up the funding gap. The Safer has been stranded without maintenance off Yemen’s coast since 2015 and holds an estimated 1.14 million barrels of light crude oil. The FSO Safer could explode or rupture at any time, threatening an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe, according to the United Nations.
The Houthi authorities, who control Hodeida, signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN on March 5 agreeing to facilitate a two-stage UN-coordinated plan to prevent the Safer from exploding or breaking apart. On September 21, the UN announced it had raised sufficient funds to begin a four-month-long operation to transfer oil from the Safer to a secure vessel. Following this first step, a second stage will involve installing a replacement vessel within 18 months. A total of $115 million is required for both stages.
Right to Food
More than half of Yemen’s population faces food insecurity, which was further exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia were leading exporters of agricultural products to Yemen and disruptions related to the war worsened already-rising food prices and deepened poverty. Before the war, Yemen imported at least 27 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and 8 percent from Russia.
According to the International Rescue Committee, skyrocketing food prices in recent years have left more than half the population in need of food assistance, while the sharp depreciation of the Yemeni rial has made imported food, oil, and other necessities more expensive, and has dramatically reduced households’ purchasing power.
Women’s Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity
Yemeni women face restrictions on movement in areas under Houthi control, where authorities require them to be accompanied by a mahram (male relative) in order to travel. The mahram requirement bars women from traveling without a male guardian or evidence of their written approval. Increased Houthi restrictions related to the mahram requirement have prevented Yemeni women from working, especially those who must travel, according to Amnesty International. These restrictions also apply to Yemeni female humanitarian workers, which has made it more difficult for women to conduct fieldwork and has impacted access to aid for Yemeni women and girls.
Yemen’s penal code prohibits same-sex relations. Article 264 punishes anal sex with 100 lashes and one year in prison if participants are not married. If married, the same article prescribes death by stoning. Article 268 punishes sex between women with up to three years in prison.
Abuses against Migrants
Migrants in Yemen face severe human rights violations along the journey from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti to Saudi Arabia in search of work, with many held in inhumane conditions without adequate access to basic services and food.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), between April and June 2022, over 11,000 migrants arrived in Yemen from Djibouti and Somalia after dangerous boat journeys. The IOM estimates that over 43,000 migrants are stranded throughout Yemen.
Key International Actors
On April 7, President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi transferred his presidential authority to an eight-member presidential leadership council with Rashad al-Alimi, a politician, as the council president. The council is backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while Houthi forces continued to receive support from Iran.
Arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other coalition members continued from Western countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and others.
An internal report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found serious gaps in US government oversight of how arms sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are being used.
Since the UN Human Rights Council narrowly voted to end the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen’s mandate in October 2021, there has been no alternative mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in Yemen and ensure accountability for abuses.
In April, international donors pledged $1.6 billion to the humanitarian response for lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection services, which is $2.7 billion less than the $4.3 billion needed for humanitarian programming.