The executive director of the American Center for Justice (ACJ) Abdulrahman Barman said that the number of mine victims in Yemen has exceeded 50,000 over more than half a century, even before the current war, in which the number of victims jumped in an unprecedented way.
In this panel discussion held by the American Cneter for Justice on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness, Barman indicated that the problem of mines in Yemen is not new, but rather has its roots in the 1960s and the ensuing internal conflicts and wars, and other conflicts between the two parts of the country before its unification in 1990, then the 1994 war, and later the six Sa’ada wars, and finally the current war.
Barman reviewed during this seminar some of the data and information included in the report which was issued by the American Center for Justice (ACJ) on mines in Yemen, entitled “Mines.. Blind Killer”. The report has been worked on by the monitoring and documentation team in the center to obtain data, figures and information during the period from July 2014 to February 2022.
The Palestinian lawyer and activist Mohammed Emad spoke about about the possibility of criminal accountability for the perpetrators of the crimes of planting mines, explaining that in light of the current impunity, and because of the division of the judiciary in Yemen the process of accountability before the local judiciary and local tools is not possible at the present time. Nevertheless, he confirmed the availability of three conditions of international criminal accountability for the perpetrators of the crime of planting mines in Yemen. The first is the occurrence of the criminal act attributed to the Houthis who are accused of planting these mines, and the second is the harm to civilians and infrastructure, which is documented by reports, field information, human rights organizations, and victims’ testimonies.
Activist Mohammed Emad mentioned that the third condition for the possibility of international criminal accountability is the availability of a causal or correlative relationship between the criminal act and the criminal outcome, stressing that the three conditions were met, and that the Houthis, in addition to their deliberate planting of mines with the intent to harm civilians, also deliberately omitted to put any signs Warning of mine sites, and evaded the responsibility of showing maps or disclosing information that would enable people to avoid and clear these mines.
The President of SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties lawyer Tawfik Al-Hamidi spoke of the planting mines, as well as the international conventions and international law, reviewing the historical background and the contents of international law that protect the civilians from the military actions, in addition to incriminating mines and the Ottawa Convention against the use, storage, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. He also emphasized that the body of the international humanitarian law aims at defining the rules of engagement, sparing civilians from direct casualties in war, and finding the necessary ways and means to protect them during wars and armed conflicts.
He also stated that the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh had announced after signing the Ottawa Convention that it had destroyed the entire stockpile of mines in the Yemeni army. However, taking control of the army warehouses by the Houthi group revealed that there was no commitment to the agreement, and that mines were still available there, as the group used them in its war, which he described as a lack of legitimacy.
He noted that the Houthi group continue to commit crime because they believe that they won’t be held accountable due to the lack of recognition by the international community. However, this is not true, he said, as international humanitarian law has created provisions for holding armed groups outside the state accountable for their violations and crimes against human rights.
American Center for Justice (ACJ) released its report on the disaster of mines on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness which was entitled “Mines.. Blind Killer”, in which it monitors and documents the killing, injury and destruction of private property by mines which are planted solely by the Ansar Allah group (the Houthis) in (17) Yemeni governorates where war battles took place during the period from June 2014 to February 2022.
The report writers said that the Houthi group has systematically committed this violation in all the military sites it controls, as well as the areas and roads the group withdrew from. The group also manufactures individual mines with local expertise in factories it established using the military equipment in their areas of control. Moreover, the Houthis distributed and stores these mines in all areas controlled by them in vilation of the international conventions ratified by Yemen, noting that these mines have been placed indiscriminately and often without any military necessity.
The report mentioned that mines have killed (2526) civilians, including (429) children and (217) women and injured (3286) others, including (723) children and (220) women in 18 Yemeni governorate and that 75% of those injured by the Houth-laid mines have been permanently disabled or maimed.
The American Center for Justice also documented in its report the total destruction of (425) different means of transport and the partial damage of (163) others due to landmines, as well as the killing of (33) disposal experts working for Masam, the Saudi Project for Mine Clearance in Yemen, (5) of whom were foreigners, in addition to the injury of (40) other workers.
(ACJ) also documented the total destruction of (334) farms and the death of (2158) of livestock due to the mines planted by the Houthis and accused the Houthi group of planting anti-personnel mines on farms, in roads, grasslands, houses and drinking water wells.
The report found out a number of catastrophic findings caused by mines, such as impeding children’s access to schools, preventing civilians from reaching pastures and farms, forcing civilians in villages and rural areas to be internally displaced, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching vulnerable groups.