HRW warns Houthi landmines are killing civilians

A man with an amputated leg walks on a street in the southwestern city of Taiz, Yemen, May 18, 2016. (Reuters)

Landmines used by forces loyal to the Houthi movement in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz have caused civilian deaths and fatal injuries, a Human Rights Watch report said on Thursday, releasing new evidence of the militias’ use of the banned antipersonnel mines.

At least 11 civilians, including seven children, were killed by an antivehicle mine in al-Waziyah neighborhood - a western part of Taiz last month - a local activist told Human Rights Watch.

“Houthi and allied forces are showing cold-hearted cruelty toward civilians by using landmines,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “Yemen’s warring parties should immediately stop laying mines, destroy mines in their possession and ensure that demining teams can work unimpeded so that families can safely return home.”

Yemeni mine clearance officials and medical professionals, revealed that antipersonnel and anti-vehicle mines have resulted in the deaths of at least 18 people and wounded more than 39 in Taiz – Yemen’s third largest city - between May 2015 and April 2016, according to Taiz-based group Against Mines National Organization. Media reports also provide collaborative evidence regarding these deadly incidents.

Deaths, disabilities

The human rights group documented that landmines in Taiz have killed five children and have caused permanent disabilities to four, and wounded 13 others. All but one of the 18 deaths that were documented were caused by antivehicle mines, while nine of 11 permanent injuries were a result of antipersonnel mines.

However, the report stated that the total figure of landmine victims in Taiz were not known and that the actual number of mine victims in Yemen may be much higher.

Yemenis clearing mines in Taiz and medical professionals said that landmines have caused dozens of civilian casualties since March.

Dr. Suhail al-Dabhani, General director at Taiz’s al-Rawda Hospital, told Human Rights Watch in June, that since late April, the hospital had treated 50 people – 30 men, eight women, and 12 children – who had one or more limbs amputated and who he believed had been wounded by landmines.

Essam al-Bathra, who leads a volunteer group at a Taiz rehabilitation center that assists people with prosthetic limbs, said the center has recieved at least 29 cases of landmine-related injuries since it reopened in May. The center was closed for nearly a year due to months of fighting between Houthi militias and Popular Resistance officers in the city.

Clearing operations

Parts of Taiz have been besieged by Iran-backed Houthis and allied forces loyal to former president Saleh since that start of the war in 2015. Demining teams who entered these areas soon after Houthi and allied forces withdrew have since cleared and destroyed mines from areas that were not known to have been mined before the conflict.

Officials at the Ministry of Human Rights in Sanaa, controlled by the Houthis and Saleh’s General People’s Congress party, denied alligations of Houthis and allied forces use of antipersonnel mines to Human Rights Watch in late July.

According to Human Rights Watch an official with the office of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee said in early August that Houthi forces did not plant antipersonnel mines in the city of Taiz, but acknowledged Houthi use of antivehicle mines - yet stated that the use was “in military areas” only.

Yemen endorsed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty on September 1998 – committing to ban the use of antipersonnel mines, and had reported to the UN in April 2002 that all stockpiles of antipersonnel mines were destroyed.

Last year, during an investigation by Human Rights Watch, mine clearance personnel found at least two types of antipersonnel mines that were produced in the 1980s - PPM-2 mines manufactured in the former East Germany and GYATA-64 mines made in Hungary – that were not listed among the four types of antipersonnel mines that Yemen had reported in its stockpile in the past, including for training mine clearance personnel.

Both the mine types that were found have been used elsewhere in Yemen in recent years, the report said, stating that evidence of the use of the antipersonnel mines in 2015 suggested that either Yemen’s report to the UN to declare the completion of destroying its stockpile in 2002 was incorrect or the mines were acquired from another source after 2002.

However, both Germany and Hungary signed the Mine Ban Treaty in December 1997, committing to end production and transfers of antipersonnel mines.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
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