war crimes

IHL & HRL Violations - August 2019

Aden Governorate

At least 40 civilians and combatants were killed on August 1st when Houthi forces mounted drone and missile attacks on a military parade in Aden. This attack constitutes a violation of rules rules 3 and 6, which prohibit targeting civilians, and rule 11, which prohibits attacks of an indiscriminate nature.

Hajjah Governorate

A child, aged 11, was killed when a Houthi projectile landed on her home in the village of al-Dair on August 4th. Her grandfather also sustained injuries. This is a violation of rules rules 3 and 6, which prohibit targeting civilians, and rule 135, which stipulates that children affected by armed conflict are entitled to special protection and respect. 

Three children were injured when a Houthi rocket hit the village of al-Danani on August 7th.  This is a violation of rules rules 3 and 6, which prohibit targeting civilians, and rule 135, which stipulates that children affected by armed conflict are entitled to special protection and respect. 

IHL & HRL Violations - May 2019


Al-Hudaydah Governorate

On May 24, the Mothers of Abductees Organization accused the Houthis of torturing and beating three men who died in their custody. Torture is a violation of rule 90.


The UN has accused the Houthis of stealing and misappropriating aid meant for civilians. According to the UN, an estimated 1% of aid in Yemen has gone missing and dozens of areas throughout Yemen have been promised aid that was never delivered. This is a violation of rule 55, which prohibits inhibiting humanitarian relief for civilians in need.



Hudaydah Governorate

The Mother of Abductees Organization has condemned Houthi forces for abducting and hiding women in Hudaydah City. The arbitrary deprivation of liberty is forbidden by rule 99.

San’a Governorate

The Houthis threw restrained prisoners suffering from severe memory loss due to torture into the streets of San’a in early March. Torture is prohibited by rule 90 and rule 118 states that those deprived of their liberty must have access to adequate medical care.



Hajjah Governorate

Houthi forces have killed at least 105 civilians from local tribes in Kushar District this past month in targeted attacks and indiscriminate shelling . Civilians are protected from attack by customary IHL rules 3 and 6.


Aid workers report that they are being threatened in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. One aid worker was detained by Houthi forces in January and released on February 16. Impeding humanitarian aid is a violation of rule 55 section B, and rule 99 forbids the arbitrary deprivation of liberty.



Hajjah Governorate

On January 26, Houthi forces shelled a camp for displaced persons in the Hajjah Governorate, killing eight people wounding thirty. This is a violation of rules 3 and 6, which protect civilians from attack.

San’a Governorate  

Over one hundred members of the Baha’i faith community remain detained by Houthi forces. On January 1, six prominent members were charged with further crimes that critics argue are being used as justification for religious discrimination. The Houthis continue to refuse to exchange the Baha’i detainees in the UN-facilitated prisoner swaps. Rule 99 forbids the arbitrary deprivation of liberty and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief called the persecution of the Baha’i faith a violation of religious liberties



Al-Hudaydah Governorate

Houthi forces continue to place land and sea mines in densely populated areas and in civilian facilities around al-Hudaydah Governorate. This is a violation of rule 22, which requires combatants to take precautions against harming civilians. Rule 81 requires parties to be discriminatory with their placement of landmines, so as not to harm civilians.


In December, the World Food Programme (WFP) discovered that food aid was not reaching civilians in Houthi-controlled territories. Instead, the WFP said the food is being stolen and sold by Houthi elements. This is a violation of rule 55, which forbids interference with access to humanitarian relief.



Al-Hudaydah Governorate

In November, fighting continued between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition in Hudaydah City. Houthi fighters fortified their positions around a hospital, a violation of rule 22, which requires combatants to take precautions to protect civilians.

Ta’iz Governorate

The United Nations Security Council released a report stating that the Houthis concealed weapons and fighters around civilians in al-Makha deliberately to avoid attack. This amounts to using civilians as human shields, a violation of IHL rule 97.



San’a Governorate

On October 25, officers from the Houthi-controlled National Security bureau detained eighteen journalists participating in a civil society event in San’a. Fifteen were released shortly thereafter and three were held for twelve hours. Journalists are granted civilian status in IHL by rule 34, and are offered civilian protections. Their detention is a violation of rule 99, which prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

Pictures posted on October 26 from Sanhan, a suburb of San’a, appear to support claims that the Houthis are using children as human shields. In addition to rules protecting civilians, this is a violation of rule 135, which provides special protections to children affected by armed conflict, and rule 136, which prohibits the recruitment of child soldiers. Human shields are specifically forbidden under rule 97.

NGOs and legal experts call for investigation into US mercenaries' crimes in Aden

Washington — The YPP and eleven other organizations, along with seven prominent legal experts, delivered a letter to the acting US attorney general this week urging the Department of Justice to investigate the actions of American mercenaries operating in Yemen. According to an investigation published last month by BuzzFeed, American and foreign employees of a US-based military contractor planned and carried out assassinations of civilians in Aden, on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. These acts, as described by the perpetrators themselves, constitute serious crimes under US law.

The letter was also delivered to the attorneys general of the state of Delaware, where the military contractor in question is incorporated, and New Jersey, where the conspirators claim to have planned some of their attacks. Copies were sent also to the Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.

We join the other signatories in demanding a full and transparent investigation, and we hope to see those responsible for these crimes prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The full text of the letter is below.

IHL & HRL Violations - August 2018


Hudaydah Governorate

On August 14th, the Houthis kidnapped Mwatana human rights researcher Kamal Al Shawish. This violates Rule 99 of customary IHL.

Jizan, KSA

On August 8th, a Houthi missile launched into Saudi Arabia killed one and wounded eleven civilians, violating rules 3 and 6, which prohibit harming civilians.

Just Security Article Analyzes How the US Might Be Found Liable for Aiding and Abetting War Crimes

As part of a series of articles on international law and the war in Yemen, Just Security recently published a piece by several legal scholars regarding the War Crimes Act and the US federal statute on aiding and abetting. The authors conclude that US government personnel face limited legal risk of prosecution for aiding and abetting violations by the Saudi-led coalition under the War Crimes Act. It would likely be difficult to establish the requisite mens rea--proof of intent--due to the fact that US military support for the Saudi-led coalition is ostensibly accompanied by training on law-of-war compliance and civilian protection. This is debatable, however, because some observers argue that the deep, systemic problems in the Saudi military render it incapable of carrying out independent air operations without violating international humanitarian law principles. The applicability of these federal laws is important because, although other international venues exist for the prosecution of war crimes, the US generally will not allow foreign or international courts to try US officials or military personnel. The article concludes that another case, the participation of US personnel in the torture and abuse of detainees held by the UAE at sites in southern Yemen, would be easier to prosecute. Those US personnel face greater potential liability for violating the War Crimes Act by aiding and abetting UAE crimes.

October 3-9: UN report blacklists coalition & Houthis, US and Yemen claim progress against AQAP


AP reports that the World Health Organization could have acted faster and sent more vaccines sooner in order to stave off the worst of Yemen’s cholera crisis.

ReliefWeb reports that FAO and the World Bank are launching a $36 million initiative to combat the famine conditions in Yemen, aiding 630,000 and strengthening rural communities.

The Intercept reports that four members of the House of Representatives will force a vote on whether the US should continue its military involvement in Yemen’s war, where it supports the Saudi- and Emirati-led intervention.

September 12 - 18: Houthis and coalition kill children in illegal attacks

Human Rights Watch said that recent coalition airstrikes that killed children in Yemen likely constitute war crimes. The human rights organizations specifically cites four air strikes that struck civilian homes and one that destroyed a grocery store.

Human Rights Watch also urged Congress to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and help curb the proliferation of war crimes in Yemen.

Inside Houthis’ illegal prison: fragile bodies and skeletons

The Abductees’ Mothers Association in Yemen recently released a statement revealing an extralegal detention facility run by Houthi militias within the central prison in Hudaydah province. The Hunaysh detention facility has reportedly been used to illegally hold 70 female abductees without rights or access to counsel since January 2017.

UAE implicated in crimes & sanctions violations in Yemen

The Just Security forum urges the United States to reconsider its support to the United Arab Emirates’ operations in Yemen due to concerns over apparent violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Rahma A. Hussein, a human rights lawyer and writer for Just Security, states in her recent report that the UAE’s actions in Yemen raise important legal and policy concerns. Another piece by Ryan Goodman and Alex Moorehead points that the UAE military and the UAE-backed forces have potentially violated international humanitarian law through enforced disappearances and the mistreatment of detainees.

December 5-11: US calls for Hadi government to accept peace deal, Oxfam warns of increasing food crisis

Monday, December 5: Yemeni officials say that al-Qaeda has blown up Yemen’s only gas export line, which was located in Shabwa province and delivered gas from Marib to a port on the Arabian Sea.