HRW accuses Yemeni army, Huthis of war violations

Ahram Online, Wednesday 19 Nov 2014

Both sides in Yemen conflict accused of breaching laws of war during clashes in September

Huthi Shia militants inspect vehicles at a checkpoint near a Houthi gathering in Sanaa November 18, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Yemeni armed forces and Shia Huthi rebels of committing "violations of the laws of war" during clashes that occurred last September in Sanaa.

HRW stated on Wednesday that two hospitals came under attack, while civilians were "unlawfully targeted" during six fighting incidents documented by the international organisation.

"The Health Ministry reported that the four days of fighting left 274 people dead and 470 injured, but did not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties," the rights body pointed out in its report.

"The United Nations and local activists told Human Rights Watch that some people may have buried their relatives’ bodies without reporting the deaths to the authorities, so the actual toll could be higher."

The report said that Huthis deployed some armed fighters at strategic sites on Sanaa's outskirts, as well as shelling the national TV headquarters. This act was described as an "unlawful attack unless the station were being used to relay military communications or for other military purposes."

Schools were used for "military purposes" by Huthi troops who occupied several of them, HRW emphasised.  

It said the military placed civilians at "unnecessary risk" following the deployment of forces in crowded places.

"Fighting left many residents trapped in their homes and neither side appeared willing to assist civilians evacuate to safety."

A UN-brokered peace deal halted the fighting. Under the agreement, Huthis will withdraw and disarm their forces – which remains unresolved – from Sanaa once a new premier is announced.  

On 8 November, under the premiership of Khalid Bahah, Yemen announced the formation of a new government as stipulated in the deal.

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