Mwatana report documents civilian casualties from Houthi-Saleh landmines

Mwatana Organization for Human Rights released a report this month entitled “Concealed Killer,” focusing on the use of landmines by Ansar Allah--also known as the Houthi movement--and pro-Saleh forces in six Yemeni governorates. To date, Mwatana has documented 33 incidents of exploded landmines planted by Ansar Allah which have killed 57 civilians, 24 of whom were children and 4 of whom were women. The report also documents 47 civilians injured by the landmines, including 21 children and 6 women.

“The gravity of the damage caused by these mines has been increased because they were planted in residential areas, public roads, main streets, homes, farms and crossing paths frequented by civilians daily. In addition to the killing and maiming rates as a result of these mines, they have also led to permanent disabilities among civilians who have been exposed to them, particularly children.”

According to the report, landmines were placed in residential areas during periods of civilian displacement in various cities in the governorates of Aden, Ta’iz, Marib, San’a, al-Baydha, and Lahj. However, once civilians return, the mines are still in place and often explode on unsuspecting families. Some civilians say that landmines were placed at the entrances to their houses by Houthi-Saleh forces as retaliation for their refusal to support the group. Landmines were also exposed during times of rain and flooding, making children and others vulnerable to triggering them. Floods have also moved landmines from conflict zones to residential areas where civilians were living.

“In the eastern Yemeni governorate of Marib, Yemeni citizen Yahya Abdulla Saklaa al-Sharif is still traumatized by the loss of his two children, who went with their third brother and mother to collect firewood in one of the valleys where a mine they were trying to extricate exploded, killing two and causing permanent disability to the third.”

The use of such landmines is banned by the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, or the Ottawa Convention, which Yemen ratified in September 1998. In keeping with this convention, Mwatana calls for the Houthi-Saleh forces to cease the use of all types of anti-personnel landmines, to reveal the locations where mines were planted, to cooperate in facilitating the removal and destruction of any mines that are in storage or planted in the ground, and to provide appropriate compensation to the victims of landmines.

The report also urges pro-Hadi forces and the Saudi-led coalition to assist in mine-clearing activities, not to plant mines themselves, to disclose whether any landmines have been planted by their side and where, and to cooperate in removing and destroying any that might exist. The international community and the United Nations, meanwhile, must assist in disposing of landmines in Yemen and pressure all parties to the conflict to avoid using mines in the future, while investigating human rights violations by all parties as well.