Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

HRW: Houthis used landmines in Aden

Yemen’s Houthi forces laid banned landmines in at least two governorates, says Human Rights Watch

Al-Ahram Weekly

Houthi forces laid banned antipersonnel landmines in the Yemeni port of Aden before withdrawing from the city in July 2015, says a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report also accused the Houthis of laying new antipersonnel mines in Abyan governorate, northwest of Aden.

The Houthis, a rebel movement from north Yemen, overran the capital Sanaa a year ago leading president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to Aden in the south. In late March, a Saudi-led Arab coalition launched air strikes against the Houthis in an attempt to reinstate Hadi. The airstrikes failed to stop their advance to the south as the Houthis captured Aden in April. Hadi escaped from Yemen the following month.

In July, the Arab coalition retook Aden that, like other southern areas, had remained inaccessible to humanitarian aid affecting approximately half the population under the Houthis.

While HRW says at least 11 people were killed by landmines, a government health official in Aden told Al-Jazeera in August that the death toll exceeded 100, with 330 injured.

Fearing antipersonnel mines, thousands of internally displaced people (IDP) from Aden and other southern governorates won’t return to their homes, even after the Houthi retreat.

The number of mines planted by the Houthis is unknown, but media reports citing local experts say they could be tens of thousands, including explosive devices and explosive remnants of war.

HRW and 22 human rights and humanitarian organisations have called on the UN’s Human Rights Council to create a fact-finding mission to investigate an array of laws of war violations by all parties to the Yemen conflict.

Yemeni Mine Action began emergency clearance of landmines and explosive remnants of war on 11 July from several residential districts of Aden previously controlled by Houthi forces. By August, clearance teams had removed 91 antipersonnel mines in Aden as well as 666 anti-vehicle mines, and 316 improvised explosive devices. Yemeni officials said that during the recent fighting in Aden, their vehicles, protective equipment, and supplies had all been looted.

On 18 August, local security officials warned international non-governmental organisations working in southern Yemen to limit their movements because of the danger posed by landmines likely laid by Houthi forces, particularly in northern and eastern areas of Aden, before they withdrew from the city, and in neighbouring Abyan and Lahj governorates.

The report said that there had been no evidence to suggest that southern fighters or members of the Saudi-led coalition have used mines.

Yemen is party to the Mine Ban Treaty since 1998 and declared the completion of mine clearance in Aden in 2009. Most of these were planted during the republican-royalist war of 1962-1975, the border war of 1970-1983 and the 1994 separatist war, among others.

For a country estimated in 1998 to have between 100,000 to two million landmines, the mine clearance of densely populated Aden was an achievement swiftly reversed with the return of landmines to the southern governorate, allegedly planted by the Houthis.

Local security experts said that on 1 August, nine people were killed and 18 wounded from a series of landmines explosions in Aden. On 1 August, a resident of Aden was killed in a landmine explosion as he entered the city from Lahj governorate. The IRIN news agency reported that a man was killed 10 August, and his four-year-old son wounded, after their vehicle hit an anti-vehicle mine in Khormakser, Aden.

People were also reported killed or wounded by landmines in Zinjibar and Lawdar in Abyan governorate on 8, 10 and 12 August.

Landmines were also laid by Houthi forces in Abyan governorate, immediately to the east of Aden, according to a retired Yemeni de-miner. He told HRW that he witnessed Houthi fighters laying mines on 8 August, shortly before an attack by southern forces pushed them out of the area.

“When the resistance (southern fighters) started to attack Abyan from the south on 8 August, I saw [Houthi forces] withdrawing from parts of Abyan, such as Lawdar. I saw them (the Houthis) from the top of a small mountain here in Lawdar, and they put the landmines at locations under their control,” the de-miner said.

Colonel Abdullah Ali Sarhan, an engineer at the National Demining Training Centre in Aden’s Dar Saad, told HRW that in late August his team had cleared mostly Soviet-made anti-vehicle mines from Aden, but to their “most shocking surprise” they had also found newly laid banned antipersonnel mines. Two de-mining team members were seriously wounded in the course of clearing the landmines from Aden.

In April 2002, Yemen had reported to the UN secretary-general that it had completed the destruction of its stockpile of antipersonnel mines as required by the Mine Ban Treaty. According to HRW, the Yemeni government didn’t report destroying Hungarian (GYATA-64) or former East Germany manufactured antipersonnel mines (PPM-2) or that it kept them for training mine clearance personnel.

The report claims that both types have been used in Yemen recently, not just in the south and prior to the Houthis’ ascendance.

Citing a 2011 Foreign Policy report, HRW says Republican Guard forces laid approximately 8,000 landmines at Bani Jarmooz, north of Sanaa. These mines, which killed two civilians and wounded at least 20, still have not been cleared. In November 2013, the Yemeni government admitted that a “violation” of the Mine Ban Treaty had occurred during the popular uprising that led to the ouster of then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

HRW also recorded the use of PPM-2 mines in Sanaa, one of which maimed a 10-year-old boy on 4 March 2012.

“The evidence of further use of GYATA-64 and PPM-2 antipersonnel mines in Aden suggests either that the 2002 declaration to the UN secretary-general on the completion of landmine stockpile destruction was incorrect, or they were acquired from another source,” said HRW.

It is unlikely the GYATA-64 or PPM-2 antipersonnel mines found in Aden were manufactured recently as both Germany and Hungary signed the Mine Ban Treaty in December 1997, committing to end production and transfer of antipersonnel landmines.

Previously, in 2013, the Yemeni government accused Houthi forces of using so-called homemade antipersonnel mines, otherwise known as victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), in 2011-2012 in Saada and Haijja governorates during fighting with local Sunni tribes backed by the government.

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