Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Mwatana and the Columbia Human Rights Clinic highlight need for accountability and redress in Yemen, spotlight grave harms faced by children 


October 11, 2023, Sana’a and New York – Yemen has failed to deliver on commitments made during prior United Nations Human Rights Council reviews, at the expense of civilians harmed by ongoing violations, Mwatana for Human Rights and the Smith Family Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School said in a new report released today. Despite reforms promised by the internationally recognized Yemeni government during their previous Universal Periodic Review in 2019, the government’s failure to prevent, punish, and provide redress for grave human rights violations has perpetuated a state of impunity. Millions of people in Yemen have faced serious rights abuses with no acknowledgment of the harms they have faced, let alone steps to hold perpetrators to account, or offer reparations to those harmed. 

“While it’s true that the Government of Yemen has faced significant political and conflict-related obstacles, this is no excuse for failing to deliver on so many of the promises made during the last Human Rights Council review,” said Abdulrasheed Alfaqih, vice chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights. “These commitments were meant to deliver basic rights protections for those in Yemen, including millions of children, who have suffered countless abuses from all parties to the war.” 


Children in Yemen have faced widespread and systemic abuses during the reporting period. As detailed in the report, Yemeni government forces, UAE-backed forces, and the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group, have recruited and used child soldiers, used schools for military purposes, and attacked and destroyed educational facilities. Coalition forces have killed and maimed children in air strikes, and attacking schools and causing total and partial physical damage.

Government forces and other armed groups have also obstructed humanitarian access. UAE-backed forces have repeatedly blocked the transport of food assistance to schools. These violations have had severe impacts on children across the country. In 2023, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 8.6 million of Yemen’s 10.76 million school-age children require educational assistance and 9.03 million children need protection services. 

The report is based on Mwatana’s field investigations and documentation of human rights abuses attributable to the Yemeni government, UAE-backed forces, and Saudi and UAE coalition forces. It also describes abuses by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group during the Universal Periodic Review reporting period between 2019 and 2023. It is also informed by discussions that Mwatana conducted with youth focus groups with children and child protection workers in Yemen, who shared the most common abuses they observed or experienced, as well as their views on recommendations for the warring parties. Participants shared that child typically received support from family members or humanitarian groups, rather than the government or de facto authorities. 

“I was grazing the sheep while I was in the area of Nahm, Al-Sadd village, I stepped on a landmine and lost one of my legs, I was taken to the hospital and I stayed a month there, they amputated my other leg too, now I am not afraid to go out and if I can walk, I will go out to play with my friends” said a participant from a youth focus group Mwatana facilitated while developing the report.

In the report, Mwatana and the Clinic urge the government to prioritize measures that guarantee children’s right to education, including rebuilding schools and ensuring that armed forces do not occupy educational facilities. They also call for the government to implement recommendations it had previously accepted to protect schools and students amidst armed conflict.

Information included in this report will inform the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Fourth Periodic Review of Yemen’s human rights record. In addition to its violations of children’s rights, Yemen’s government is responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including indiscriminate ground attacks, targeting of medical facilities, denials of humanitarian assistance, instances of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and torture, and failing to protect the rights of African migrants. Between March 2015 and March 2022, Mwatana documented air attacks targeting civilians or civilian objects carried out by Saudi and UAE-led coalition forces, with the support of the Yemeni government, that killed 3,599 civilians and injured 3,622. 1,201 of the victims killed and 711 of those injured were children.

The termination of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts at the Human Rights Council in October 2021 was a regrettable occurrence, particularly due to the lack of genuine efforts from the internationally recognized government to renew the Group's mandate.

“We urge states to make or amplify recommendations that will hold Yemen to account for implementing specific, identifiable changes that deliver real human rights improvements for those whose rights have been abused or denied,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, Director of the Counterterrorism, Armed Conflict, and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute.

Yemen’s government has also failed to investigate and prosecute apparent grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in accordance with international standards of transparency, independence, impartiality, and thoroughness. Mwatana and the Clinic urged the Government of Yemen to work towards a comprehensive settlement of the conflict that incorporated human rights and international justice priorities. To provide justice for those harmed and deter future abuse, the Yemeni government should support the establishment of an independent, international, criminally-focused investigative mechanism for Yemen, the groups said. Yemen’s government should also provide support for reparations for all civilian victims. 

The Universal Periodic Review of Yemen is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, May 1st, 2024 during the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council (April 29 – May 10) in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The joint submission is available here.



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Mwatana for Human Rights is an independent Yemeni organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights by carrying out accurate and objective field investigations and research, providing legal support to victims, pursuing accountability and redress, conducting advocacy, raising awareness, and building capacity within and outside Yemen. (Organization website: 

The Smith Family Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School works in partnership with civil society organizations and communities to advance human rights around the world and educate the next generation of social justice advocates. The Clinic conducts fact-finding, legal and policy analysis, litigation, trainings, and advocacy. (Organization website: