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A report by Human Rights Watch published on April 20th, 2017 revealed that the use of banned anti-personnel landmines by Houthi Rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, have caused numerous casualties and hindered the safe return of civilians displaced by the fighting. The forces’ actions are an impenitent breach of international law as Yemen ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (hereinafter the Mine Ban Treaty) on September 1st, 1998.
HRW recounted a statement made by The Landmine Monitor Initiative where it reported that at least 988 people were killed or wounded by landmines or other explosive remnants of war in Yemen in 2015. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) states that antipersonnel landmines were initially developed to protect antitank mines and stop them from being removed by enemy soldiers. They were designed to maim rather than kill the enemy solider. However, over time this came to change and the mines were indiscriminately used to terrorize civilians, restrict population movement and deny access to farming land.
The Mine Ban Treaty’s focal objective is for state parties to refrain from the use of anti-personnel mines as well as their development, production, acquirement, stockpile, retention and transfer. Despite the Treaty’s prohibition, it is not unusual for non-state armed groups or rebel groups in some countries to produce their own improvised variety of antipersonnel mines as reported by the ICBL. Therefore, the Houthi-Saleh Forces’ attacks though not unusual or unprecedented are indeed alarming and deeply disturbing.
The report further stated that on April 2nd, 2017, Yemen’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in Sanaa responded to a HRW letter regarding recent landmine use. The ministry stated that the Sanaa-based authorities are “vigilant in abiding by [their] commitments” under the Mine Ban Treaty. It went on to deny that Houthi-Saleh forces had used antipersonnel landmines and shifted the blame onto armed factions and terrorist groups that it alleges have used and produced improvised mines. These statements come as no surprise as the ministry is controlled by the Houthis and Saleh’s General People’s Congress Party.
The political instability in Yemen renders the seizure of the civil war unlikely for as long as dissent between the Iran backed Houthi-Saleh and the Saudi backed coalition led by Yemen’s internationally recognized president, Abed Raboo Mansour Hadi, persists. With neither one wanting to relinquish power and Hadi in exile, it seems that the Yemeni population shall be forced to suffer through more human rights violations and destabilization. Hadi replaced Saleh as Yemen’s president after the latter’s ousting in 2012 during the Arab Spring in which the Houthis, ironically played a very fundamental role. His rule was however short-lived as he too was ousted in January 2015. Houthi forces loyal to Saleh went on to declare control of the government in February of the same year.
Media site Al-Monitor reported that the Houthi-Saleh Alliance continues to assert its control over Yemen, having appointed Abdul Aziz bin Habtoor the Prime Minister of its government, the National Salvation Government, which comprises 42 ministries. With a historically fragile relationship, the international community’s refusal to recognize its legitimacy and a collapsing economy among the many dilemmas the Houthi-Saleh government is set to contend with, its survival seems as impossible as an increased demand for shirtless, horseback riding Vladimir Putin sightings.
Hopefully the shock and outrage these actions have generated will prompt the United Nations and the international community to ensure that both the Houthi-Saleh forces and the Saudi-led coalition are brought to book. Both parties’ commission of human rights violations and war crimes if unpunished, would be a grave injustice to the Yemeni people who have suffered enough at the hands of power hungry individuals with no concern for their people’s rights, well-being or safety.