Continued Violations During 2023

Simultaneous Cessation of Human Rights Violations and Military Operations by All Conflict Parties

Thursday, January 11, 2024
Continued Violations During 2023

Sana'a - Thursday, January 11th, 2024


Mwatana for Human Rights stated that it documented 1,117 violations and incidents committed by various conflicting parties in Yemen during 2023. These incidents resulted in the deaths of 161 civilians, including 94 children and 16 women, and the injury of 355 civilians, including 208 children and 37 women. Moreover, approximately 563 civilians, including 183 children and 19 women, fell victim to other forms of violations such as child recruitment, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture.

Mwatana emphasized in its annual briefing on the human rights situation in Yemen for 2023 that the briefing exclusively covers incidents authenticated by its field team, not encompassing all the violations that occurred over the year.

Per the organization's briefing, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group is accountable for 663 of the recorded violations. The Southern Transitional Council bears responsibility for 191 violations, while the internationally recognized government forces are linked to 199 violations. Forces within the Saudi/UAE-led coalition, including Saudi border guards, are associated with 31 violations. The Joint Forces account for 14 violations, and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is implicated in 5 violations. Moreover, non-state groups, such as human trafficking and smuggling gangs, are accountable for 14 violations.

Mwatana conducted around 2,492 interviews with primary sources, survivors, victims' families and friends, healthcare workers, rescuers, and eyewitnesses, ensuring informed consent after explaining the interview's purpose. Their field team, consisting of researchers and lawyers, embarked on numerous field visits spanning various, at times hazardous, regions. The organization gathered hundreds of supporting documents, including photos, medical reports, evidence, and video clips. Each documented incident underwent meticulous scrutiny and verification by central researchers, legal experts, members of the Research Unit, the Legal Support Unit, and other pertinent departments and units within the organization.

Radhya Al-Mutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights organization, highlighted, “Despite the cessation of most military operations, the various conflicting parties have persistently engaged for the ninth year in committing an array of egregious violations, inflicting numerous forms of harm on civilians. This relentless pattern displays a blatant disregard for the civilians' lives and fundamental rights on a broad scale. Such continuous violations persist due to prevailing impunity and the absence of comprehensive, independent, and transparent investigative mechanisms.”

She added, “The continuous commitment of conflicting parties to various violations against civilians, repeatedly flouting the principles and rules of international human rights and humanitarian law, has transformed the lives of Yemeni civilians into a harrowing ordeal, depriving them of their most fundamental rights to live safely and with dignity.”

Mwatana pointed out that despite the inability, in October 2022, to extend the period of ceasefire truce declared under the auspices of the United Nations in April of the same year, military operations, particularly airstrikes by the Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces, and most ground attacks by other parties, ceased in various Yemeni regions. However, sporadic clashes between conflicting parties continued in some areas such as Al-Bayda, Al-Hudaydah, Marib, Taiz, and Shabwa. Nevertheless, the reduction in military activities did not result in a decrease in violations by conflicting parties. Instead, new patterns of violations emerged. Incidents involving landmines, explosives, and war remnants increased, coinciding with the return of internally displaced people to their original areas, heavily contaminated with landmines, explosives, and war remnants.

In order to provide a clear overview of the human rights situation in Yemen in 2023, the briefing by Mwatana outlines the most significant violations perpetrated by diverse parties to the conflict, including the Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group, the Southern Transitional Council's forces, the internationally recognized government forces, the Joint Forces, the Saudi guard units, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and human smuggling and trafficking gangs.

Ground Attacks:

Mwatana for Human Rights has documented 32 incidents of ground shelling resulting in injuries and fatalities among civilians. These tragic events led to the harm and loss of 77 lives, including 46 children and 8 women. Among the documented incidents, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group is accountable for 18, while the Saudi border guard units bear responsibility for 8. Additionally, the internationally recognized government forces account for 5 incidents, and Southern Transitional Council forces responsible for one incident.

Despite a reduction in military operations and direct clashes between conflicting parties, the persistently high number of violations and casualties resulting from ground attacks starkly highlights these parties' failure to implement measures safeguarding civilians. This failure underscores the disregard for principles outlined in international humanitarian law, particularly those of proportionality and precaution. Moreover, the documented incidents also unveil deliberate targeting of civilians by parties to the conflict.


Aerial Attacks:

Mwatana for Human Rights meticulously documented 16 drone strikes incidents resulting in the injury and death of 39 civilians, among them 25 children and 6 women. Furthermore, causing significant damage to vital infrastructure.

As per Mwatana's documentation, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group is held responsible for 12 drone strike incidents. The Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces are accountable for 2 drone strikes. Additionally, both the internationally recognized government forces and Saudi border guard units are linked to one drone strike each.

Attacks on Vital Facilities:

Mwatana for Human Rights documented 165 incidents of attacks on vital facilities, including 19 attacks on hospitals/health centers, 144 school attacks, and two attacks on other service facilities. The internationally recognized government forces are responsible for 9 school attacks, 3 attacks on hospitals/health centers and 2 incidents of attacks on other vital facilities. The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group is accountable for 127 school attacks and 10 attacks on hospitals/health centers. The Southern Transitional Council is responsible for 6 school attacks and 4 attacks on hospitals/health centers. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is responsible for two school attacks. The Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces and Joint Forces are responsible for an attack each on hospitals/health centers. These attacks included occupation and using for military and mobilization purposes, making these facilities direct targets for aerial and ground attacks.


Landmines and Explosive Devices:

Mwatana for Human Rights documented 165 incidents involving landmines and explosive devices, encompassing 83 cases of explosive devices and 82 landmine-related occurrences. These incidents encompassed various types of landmines, including anti-personnel, anti-vehicle, booby-traps, camouflaged devices, and remnants of weapons like empty bullet casings, hand grenades, and improvised explosive devices. Regrettably, these incidents led to the injury and loss of life for 306 civilians, among them 200 children and 25 women.

The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group is accountable for 77 landmine incidents and 51 other explosive device incidents. The internationally recognized government forces are linked to 4 landmine incidents and 15 other explosive device incidents. The Southern Transitional Council is responsible for one landmine incident and 6 other explosive device incidents. Both the Joint Forces and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are linked to 6 explosive device incidents, each with 3 incidents. Additionally, the Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces are responsible for two explosive device incidents, while the party or parties accountable for three other explosive device incidents remain unidentified.

The impact of the widespread presence of landmines and explosive devices has extended far beyond inflicting civilian casualties. Their proliferation has severely hampered civilian mobility, compelling them to navigate alternative and hazardous routes due to the contamination of public roads. This obstacle has blocked civilians' access to essential water and food sources, as these devices are scattered extensively across fields, pastures, areas for collecting firewood, and close to water reservoirs.

Furthermore, it has intensified the challenges children encounter in reaching schools, resulting in the denial of education to many school-aged children. This climate of fear among civilians has led some to restrict their children from venturing outside their homes and living ordinary lives. These circumstances have produced adverse effects across multiple facets of their psychological, physical, economic, educational, and social well-being.

Live Ammunition:

Mwatana for Human Rights meticulously documented 78 incidents involving live ammunition, resulting in the tragic loss and injury of 108 individuals, among them 56 children and 11 women. Within these incidents, accountability falls on various parties: The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group for 36 incidents, the Southern Transitional Council for 23, and both the internationally recognized government forces and Saudi border guard units for 16 incidents, with 8 occurrences each. Additionally, two incidents are attributed to human smuggling and trafficking gangs, while the Joint Forces are accountable for one incident. These incidents encompass both deliberate and stray gunfire.

The concerning escalation of live ammunition incidents represents a grave danger to civilian lives. Despite a reduction in military activities and armed conflicts, this rise in such violations raises significant apprehensions about the persistent threat to civilians.

Denial of Humanitarian Access:

Mwatana for Human Rights meticulously documented 53 instances of humanitarian access denial in 2023. Within these incidents, accountability points to various parties: The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group for 36 incidents, the Southern Transitional Council for 9 incidents, the internationally recognized government forces for 5 incidents, and the Joint Forces for 2 incidents. Additionally, the human smuggling and trafficking gangs are linked to one incident.

The denial of humanitarian access deprived many impoverished families of their rightful access to essential aid. According to Mwatana’s thorough documentation, the methods employed by these parties to obstruct aid varied. They included restricting the movement of humanitarian aid and workers, reducing the allocated aid rations, exerting control over distribution mechanisms, and intervening in the preparation of beneficiary lists. Notably, the majority of these incidents were concentrated in areas under the control of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group, responsible for 36 documented violations.

Child Recruitment:

In 2023, Mwatana documented a total of 59 cases of child recruitment. Among these cases, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group accounted for 33 instances, the Southern Transitional Council for 19, and the internationally recognized government forces for 7. These figures underscore the ongoing exploitation of vulnerable families and the manipulation practiced by conflicting parties.

Mwatana highlighted that the motivations behind recruiting children often revolve around exploiting families' financial needs or coercively recruiting children without their families' consent or awareness. This recruitment occurs by forcibly taking children from residential neighborhoods, schools, and even mosques.

Arbitrary Detention, Enforced Disappearance, and Torture:

Violations related to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and other forms of inhumane treatment topped the list of violations in 2023. Mwatana for Human Rights documented 297 cases of arbitrary detention, 104 cases of enforced disappearance, 57 cases of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, along with 13 fatalities in custody, one abduction, and one extrajudicial execution.

Responsibility for these instances fell upon various parties to the conflict: The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group accounted for 228 cases, the internationally recognized government forces for 128, and the Southern Transitional Council for 102. Additionally, the Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces and Joint Forces were attributed to 8 and 7 violations, respectively.

These documented incidents are a stark reflection of the actual violations committed by these parties, with the real count likely being much higher. Notably, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group launched a widespread campaign of detention during the September 26th revolution celebrations. Meanwhile, the internationally recognized government and elite forces conducted extensive campaigns targeting civilians in Hadramaut governorate on October 23, 2023.

Sexual Violence:

Mwatana for Human Rights meticulously documented 29 distressing incidents of sexual violence throughout 2023, affecting a total of 36 individuals, including 34 children. These violations ranged from sexual harassment to rape and sexual exploitation.

The Southern Transitional Council is accountable for 12 incidents of sexual violence, while forces associated with the internationally recognized government bear responsibility for 7 incidents. The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group is linked to 4 incidents, and the Joint Forces are accountable for one incident. Additionally, individuals without authority are responsible for 5 incidents among those documented by Mwatana.

Run Over Incidents by Military Vehicles:

Mwatana for Human Rights documented 15 incidents where civilians were run over by military vehicles in 2023. Such incidents resulted in 22 civilian casualties, including 17 children. The internationally recognized government forces are accountable for 4 incidents, the Southern Transitional Council for 6, and the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group for 5. According to Mwatana, most of these incidents were due to vehicle operators' disregard for civilian lives and traffic rules.

Attacks on African Migrants:

Mwatana for Human Rights documents a total of 40 incidents of attacks on African migrants, committed by various conflicting parties and human smuggling and trafficking gangs in areas under their control. These incidents involved killings, mutilation, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, forced deportation, torture, extortion, and other violations.

Restriction of Public Freedoms:

Mwatana for Human Rights documented 32 incidences of freedom restriction, including 12 cases of restricted movement, 15 cases of civic space violations, and 5 cases of freedom of expression denial. The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group is accountable for 20 incidents, while the Southern Transitional Council and internationally recognized government forces are responsibility for 12 violations, with 6 incidents each. Notably, restrictions on public and fundamental freedoms, especially freedom of movement, continue to intensify. What was permissible one day might be prohibited the next, affecting not just one aspect but all facets of life. Women are particularly vulnerable to these violations compared to other segments of society. Victims of such violations often fear speaking out about their experiences, concerned that doing so might subject them to further harm by various parties involved.

Humanitarian Situation:

Over nine years of armed conflict have had detrimental effects on various aspects of civilians' lives, infrastructure, and vital sectors. Essential income sources for millions of Yemenis have vanished, leading to increased poverty and famine risks. In 2023, 24.1 million Yemenis were at risk of famine and disease, with 14 million in urgent need of aid. Additionally, 18 million Yemenis lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation services. The situation worsened with the World Food Programme's announcement on December 5th, 2023, suspending its general food assistance program in areas under Sana'a authorities due to limited funding and failure to reach an agreement with authorities for a scaled-down program. The humanitarian crisis, according to various international organizations, is the worst of its kind, with 17 million Yemenis suffering from food insecurity, including 6.1 million in Humanitarian emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 21.6 million in need of assistance, representing 75% of Yemen's population. Among them, 540,000 children under the age of five face acute malnutrition and a direct risk of death. 

Vital sectors like education have deteriorated significantly during the war years, with thousands of children dropping out of school. Parties to the conflict attempted to manipulate the educational process for their political gains, leading to hundreds of attacks on educational facilities, leaving many inoperable and those that continue operating functioning at minimal capacity. The healthcare sector, already fragile, collapsed due to the armed conflict, rendering a large number of facilities incapable of providing basic healthcare services to civilians, including vaccinations for preventable diseases among children. Diphtheria cases increased by 57% compared to 2021 and 2022.

Peace Endeavors:

Mwatana emphasized that the announcement by the United Nations' Special Envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, in late December 2023 about conflicting parties committing to a ceasefire and engaging in a comprehensive political process under UN auspices represents an unprecedented step toward peace. This move could potentially end the suffering of millions of Yemenis and eliminate the looming specter of conflict that has overshadowed their lives for years. 

Additionally, Mwatana urged the conflicting parties in Yemen to adhere to the UN-proclaimed roadmap to end armed conflict, resume the political process, and achieve sustainable peace. Mwatana also called upon the international community to establish an independent, impartial, and transparent mechanism to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, ensuring accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. 

Mwatana reiterated its call to the conflict parties and the international community to support peace efforts in Yemen, placing Yemen’s interest and its people above all considerations, prioritizing human rights issues. This includes addressing the files of human rights violations victims, repairing the harm done to them, holding violators accountable, and establishing safeguards to prevent the recurrence of such violations. These actions are paramount in the forthcoming settlement process, spanning its various phases, as a means to ensure the success of a comprehensive, fair, and sustainable path of peace.


The part of this briefing on Aerial Attacks has been modified based on recent statistics and verification of the nature of the attacks on Feb 20, 2024.