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Yemen responds to allegations of antipersonnel mine use

UNDP worker in Yemen in de-mining operations

UNDP worker in Yemen in de-mining operations

Yemeni officials responded constructively today in Geneva to allegations that government forces have used antipersonnel mines. These weapons have been banned by the international community under the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty due to their inhumane and indiscriminate impact on civilians.

Acknowledging the allegations, Yemeni officials announced that an investigation into the charges is underway and a formal statement will be issued. The officials pledged that Yemen will prosecute those responsible and publish all information on the case.

The allegations of antipersonnel mine use by the Yemeni government forces were were made in Geneva, as states gathered for annual discussions on the implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. The Treaty prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of all antipersonnel mines. If true, these allegations will be the first serious violation of the treaty by a State Party in its 14-year history.

Human Rights Watch, together with an independent journalist from Foreign Policy magazine, released findings on evidence of substantial mine laying in the Bani Jarmooz area, near Sanaa. The mine-laying is suspected to have been carried out by the Republican Guard forces in 2011, based on testimonies gathered through on-the-ground investigation and eyewitness accounts.

These mines have caused at least 15 civilian casualties, including nine children. In the most recent case documented, on 12 April, Fawaz Mohsin Saleh Husn, a nine-year-old boy, had his left leg blown apart after stepping on a landmine while tending his family’s sheep. Two other members of Fawaz’s family have also suffered injuries from mines as they attempted to clear their land.

The allegation of such mine use could indicate that Yemen has acquired a new stockpile of antipersonnel mines. This would be a major violation of the Mine Ban Treaty if true.

Yemen reported completing the destruction of its stockpile of antipersonnel mines as required by the Treaty in 2002. In this way, it is unclear how these mines, some of which are of Soviet and Hungarian origins, came to be used recently in Yemen.

These allegations follow separate documentation by the Landmine Monitor of the use of antipersonnel mines by government forces in the capital city of Sanaa.

Based on these findings, AOAV joins the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to call on the Yemeni government to undertake the following actions:

  • Conduct an immediate investigation into the deployment of antipersonnel mines in the Bani Jarmooz area;
  • Immediately mark and cordon off the areas where antipersonnel mines and related munitions are deployed to reduce the risk of further casualties among the local population;
  • Immediately conduct mine clearance efforts to remove or destroy the munitions from the vicinity of the Republican Guard camps and any other areas in which antipersonnel mines have been deployed;
  • Identify and prosecute those responsible for deploying antipersonnel mines;
  • Provide assistance, and support to those killed or injured – and to their families – as a result of the deployment of mines in the Bani Jarmooz area and elsewhere in Yemen;
  • Publicly reaffirm Yemen’s commitment to enforcing all aspects of the Mine Ban Treaty, including the prohibition on the use of antipersonnel mines;
  • Disclose the source of the antipersonnel mines laid in the Bani Jarmooz area and when and how these were obtained;
  • Immediately collect and destroy any remaining stockpiles, as required by the treaty.