UN Panel of Experts' Report Describes a Fragmented Conflict, with Humanitarian Law Violations on All Sides

On January 26, the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen released its annual report on the conflict in Yemen. The report described several of the most significant events of the war in 2017, including the Houthis’ missile launch that landed near an airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the dissolution of the Houthi-Saleh alliance in December, and the Houthis’ consolidation of control in northern Yemen.

February 6-19: US Calls for UN action against Iran following Yemen report; UAE launches offensive against AQAP

The Saudi-led coalition has announced plans to finance and install four cranes in the ports of Aden, Mukalla, and Mokha as part of its unilateral humanitarian plan for Yemen, which has been criticized by several NGOs. The YPP pointed out the plan’s shortcomings in a recent blog post.  

Houthis reeducate civil servants with "cultural courses"

This guest post comes to us from a trusted contact in Houthi-controlled San'a, and it represents the author's own opinions. The YPP has not been able to independently verify the incidents reported herein.

The Houthis have left no chapter of human rights law unviolated. They have committed all kinds of violations from murder, intimidation and torture against intellectual and political opponents as well as activists. In most cases, the violation of human rights is a forced and compulsory act of power or of arms. The Houthis have gone beyond attacking opponents and activists to peaceful citizens under their authority. People in the Houthi controled areas can no longer show any kind of resistance or rejection, even in their most basic culture and ideological rights. The Houthis are not as backward and ignorant as some think, but they are a group with extensive experience in sociology. Therefore, their behavior can not be random, but is rather very deliberate. The Houthis are a radical ideological organization, not only a political or social group. Consequently, the most important concern of this group is to control the faith of people and their values nd beliefs.

Pomeps papers show the fractional nature of Yemen's war

In November, The Project on Middle East Political Science at George Washington University brought together scholars from Yemen, Europe, and the United States to discuss the situation in Yemen. This workshop produced a series of short papers that illustrate the fractional nature of Yemen’s war and contemplate the challenges behind any future negotiated settlement.

January 16-30: Separatists seize control of Aden, EU states halt arms sales to coalition

1/16

Yemen’s government publicly called on the UAE to “stop destroying” Soqotra island, and asked the UN Security Council to take action to curb the actions of the UAE “occupying forces.” The minister of tourism said in his statement that the UAE had, among other offenses, asked the residents of Soqotra to vote on a referendum to secede from Yemen and join the UAE.

1/17

Saudi Arabia deposited $2 billion to the Central Bank of Yemen to prevent further collapse of the Yemeni riyal, which has dropped to its lowest-ever rate of exchange.

1/18

Human Rights Watch released a new report detailing how all parties in Yemen’s war are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

"Just Enough": The Saudi-led Coalition's Humanitarian Plan for Yemen

Concise and insightful analyses of the Saudi-led coalition’s Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO) plan swiftly followed its Monday announcement. Though the top line number -- a pledge of 1.5 billion USD to UN agencies in response to the 2.96 billion requested by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) from the international community -- is commendable, the YCHO’s fine print only underlines the contradictions shaping the plan for the worse: if Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other coalition governments want to be both warring parties in Yemen’s conflict and the country’s humanitarian saviors, the former will always subsume the latter.

January 8-15: US official optimistic about port access; WaPo previews UN Expert Panel report

1/8

The Economist published an article on the recent movements of the Yemeni National Army. The Army had previously been trapped in a year-long stalemate, but have recently started making progress toward Hudaydah, as well as making gains in al-Jawf in the north and Shabwah in the south. The Economist attributed these recent movements to the opportunities that have been created from shifting alliances since Saleh’s death in December.


Afrah Nasser asserted in an article published by openDemocracy that Yemen continues to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. One point of particular concern to Nasser is the face that the number of civilian deaths reported is inconsistent with the level of suffering that is occurring on the ground.

Chatham House encourages the incorporation of subnational and local groups in an expanded mediation process

In Yemen: National Chaos, Local Order, Chatham House's Peter Salisbury identifies Yemen as a “chaos state” characterized as “a nominal entity that exists largely as lines on a map and as a concept in newspaper reports and policymaker briefings" (p. 45). The traditional solution to restoring order in a “chaos state” is creating a centralized government that dictates legitimacy from the top down. According to Salisbury’s analysis, this approach is unlikely to work in Yemen. Yemen is not purely a contest for power between the Houthis and the government of President Hadi, or purely a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but rather “a region of mini-states at varying degrees of war with one another, and beset by their own complex internal politics and conflicts.”  

January 1-7: Houthis launch another missile at KSA, UN reports on aid access

1/1

Al Arabiya identified four members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard who have allegedly been advising the Houthis in San’a.

In the international arena, President Bashir of Sudan confirmed the Sudanese government's continued support of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

1/2

The Office of the Governor in al-Mahrah issued a statement asking local customs to refuse the entry of materials such as trucks, fertilizers, pipes, and motorcycles, which could have long-term negative economic effects on farmers as well as food production.

HRL and IHL Violations - December 2017

Houthi-Saleh Alliance

San’a Governorate

On December 4, 2017, Houthi forces summarily executed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in San’a. This incident violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a party.

In the month since the death of Ali Abdullah Saleh, multiple sources have reported that Houthi forces have detained and disappeared hundreds of people in San’a, and have carried out mass executions. Thus far it has been impossible to confirm the extent of these violations.

On December 5, 2017, Houthi rebels held dozens of journalists at a television station in San'a after firing rocket-propelled grenades at the headquarters of the Yemen Al Youm TV channel. This incident violates Customary IHL Rule 96 on taking hostages.

 

The War Powers Resolution and America's role in Yemen

The YPP's legal team prepared this analysis of the War Powers Resolution last year, ahead of an effort in the US House of Representatives to invoke the Resolution and end America's military involvement in Yemen's civil war. 

Historical Context

In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing the Executive Branch to introduce U.S. forces in South-East Asia without a declaration of war from Congress. President Johnson and Nixon subsequently escalated the initial “advise and assist” mission in South Vietnam into a full-scale war prosecuted by U.S. forces, and failed to notify Congress of a bombing campaign in Cambodia. In an attempt to avoid similar executive overreach, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973 (50 U.S.C. Chapter 33).

December 18-31: Coalition airstrikes kill hundreds in two weeks; Houthis shell homes in Ta'iz and Baydha

12/18

In another sign of the collapse of the Houthi-Saleh Alliance, Critical Threats reported that forces loyal to deceased President Saleh have stopped supporting the Houthis and have begun supporting the Emirati-led offensive to retake the Red Sea coast.

12/19

The Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, released a statement claiming there were 136 verified civilian deaths caused by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes from December 6th to December 16th. These deaths took place in San’a, Sa’dah, al-Hudaydah, and Ta’iz governorates.

YPP endorses "Yemen Can't Wait" letter

The Yemen Peace Project is proud endorse an open letter calling on the leaders of the United States, United Kingdom, and France to take immediate action to end the war in Yemen. This letter--signed by 400 prominent individuals including NGO heads, celebrities, government officials, and scholars--makes it clear that “Yemen can’t wait” another day for the world to come to its aid.

Saudi Government Statement on Easing Blockade Reinforces Status Quo

Following an attempted Houthi ballistic missile strike on Riyadh, the Saudi government announced today that the coalition would continue “opening Hudaydah port to humanitarian and relief supplies and allowing the entry of commercial ships, including fuel and food vessels, for a period of 30 days to implement the proposals” of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen concerning vessel inspection measures at Hudaydah port. The announcement was intended to elicit relief and praise  from the international community. After the Houthis’ last attempted attack on Riyadh, the Saudi government made its partial blockade of Yemeni ports total, closing humanitarian and commercial access to Yemenis bearing the brunt of the nation’s humanitarian catastrophe. It’s tempting to think that the loud and continuous outcry of the international community, with late contributions from the United States and United Kingdom, has checked the Saudi government’s most punitive impulses.

December 11-17: Coalition offensive continues in Tihamah, Islah leader meets with UAE

12/11

A pro-coalition article asserted that the United Arab Emirates is in command of the coalition/National Army/Southern Resistance offensive advancing toward Hudaydah.

Al Arabiya reported that Tehran evacuated 40 military advisors, as well as UN workers, from San’a following the death of an Iranian Missile expert who was killed last Saturday.

US Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas), senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, are calling for new sanctions on Iran for its destabilizing activities in Yemen. They have introduced a bill they claim will hold Tehran accountable for their support of the Houthis.

December 4-10: Houthis crack down in San'a, coalition advances toward Hudaydah

12/4/2017

The US Supreme Court ruled that President Trump’s travel ban could be fully enforced while challenges to the ban proceed in lower courts. “The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, will be holding arguments on the legality of the ban this week.”

12/5

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters that the humanitarian situation in Yemen is likely to worsen following Saleh’s assassination. Mattis’ statements were vague, but signalled an increased concern among American officials for the humanitarian crisis.

Why we oppose the coalition's Hudaydah offensive

The Yemen Peace Project and many other advocacy and humanitarian organizations are currently using every tool at our disposal to pressure the White House to try to stop the offensive on al-Hudaydah currently being mounted by Yemeni army, Southern Resistance and coalition forces. This position is controversial. I’ve heard from many Yemeni and Yemeni-American contacts who agree with our stance on this, and from a number who disagree. So I feel it’s necessary to explain, personally, why I think the YPP’s position is the right one, and why we think this offensive should not go forward. I hope those who think I’m wrong will take the time to read it.

HRL and IHL Violations - November 2017

Houthi-Saleh Alliance

Riyadh Airport, Saudi Arabia

On November 4, 2017, Houthi forces fired a ballistic missile on Riyadh’s main international airport. This incident violates Customary IHL Chapter 3 and Chapter 6.

Ta'iz Governorate

On November 2, 2017, Houthi forces shelled a residential area killing five children and wounding two. This incident violates Customary IHL Chapter 3 and Chapter 6.