(Beirut) – Houthi forces’ widespread use of landmines along Yemen’s western coast since mid-2017 has killed and injured hundreds of civilians and prevented aid groups from reaching vulnerable communities, Human Rights Watch said today. Yemeni law and the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty ban all use of antipersonnel mines; anti-vehicle mines have been used indiscriminately in violation of the laws of war, posing dangers to civilians long after hostilities have ceased.
Landmines laid in farmlands, villages, wells, and roads have killed at least 140 civilians, including 19 children, in the Hodeida and Taizz governorates since 2018, according to the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project, a humanitarian data source. Landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have prevented humanitarian organizations from reaching populations in need, left farms and wells inaccessible, and harmed civilians trying to return home.
“Houthi-laid landmines have not only killed and maimed numerous civilians, but they have prevented vulnerable Yemenis from harvesting crops and drawing clean water desperately needed for survival,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, acting emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Mines have also prevented aid groups from bringing food and health care to increasingly hungry and ill Yemeni civilians.”
Human Rights Watch researchers visited the southern port city of Aden in February 2019 and interviewed civilians injured by landmines as well as civilians fleeing mined areas, aid workers, and a deminer from Yemen Executive Mine Action Centre; analyzed video and photographs collected in country; and reviewed Houthi state and military media channels.
Human Rights Watch found evidence that in addition to laying anti-personnel landmines, Houthi forces planted anti-vehicle mines in civilian areas, modified anti-vehicle mines to detonate from a person’s weight, and disguised improvised explosive devices as rocks or parts of tree trunks. Human Rights Watch also found that the Houthis have used antipersonnel mines in Hayran, near the Saudi Arabia border, and confirmed their use of naval mines despite the risk to commercial, fishing, and aid vessels.
Victims and witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the areas where landmines caused deaths and injuries were previously controlled by Houthi forces and that civilians had not been harmed until the Houthi withdrawal, when the mines presumably were planted. A 25-year-old man displaced from Nakhil village in Tuhayta district said that Houthis laid mines in his village around May 2018: “[The Houthis] warned me and said, ‘Don’t enter this area, we’re mining it.’ They told me that the area was mined.”
Landmines have also left at least three western coast water facilities inaccessible, two aid groups said. In addition, mines have made it more difficult for villagers to feed themselves and maintain their income. Five people said that they had been injured or that relatives had been killed when landmines detonated in farmlands or grazing lands; many displaced people said mines prevented safe harvesting and killed valuable livestock.
Landmines have prevented humanitarian organizations from reaching communities in need along the western coast, Human Rights Watch said. These included villages and towns in the Tuhayta and Mawza’a districts, as well as the major port city of Hodeida. Three aid groups said they could not reach key places or provide services to areas because landmines were planted there or along the route. Many of these communities are only accessible by dirt roads, which are far more hazardous than paved surfaces.
You can read the full article at Human Rights Watch here.