Yemen: immediate measures needed to protect the civilian population against violations and hold perpetrators to account

Jul 24, 2018 | Advocacy, Analysis briefs, News

In a briefing paper published today, the ICJ called on the parties to the conflict in Yemen to take immediate and effective measures to ensure the protection of the civilian population, including against human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations.

Serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Yemen include direct and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and the impediment of access to humanitarian relief of the civilian population.

Gross human rights violations and abuses include widespread instances of arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances.

The ICJ has called for persons responsible for such violations to be held to account.

“All parties to the conflict in Yemen have acted in blatant disregard of the most basic rules of international humanitarian law and human rights law,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA Director.

“The top priority is to end these violations and in particular to protect the civilian population,” he added.

In its briefing paper, the ICJ analyses international law violations committed in the conduct of hostilities and against persons deprived of their liberty.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Houthis are allegedly responsible for direct, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including local markets, food storage sites, water installations and medical facilities.

The United Arab Emirates, the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Houthis have allegedly engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances.

The ICJ briefing paper also examines the potential legal implications of the blockade imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on Yemen and the sieges laid by the Houthis against several towns and localities, which impede the civilian population to access humanitarian relief.

The ICJ briefing paper further assesses the potential responsibility of third States for transferring arms to the parties to the conflict.

Under numerous instruments, including the Arms Trade Treaty, States are prohibited from selling arms to the parties to an armed conflict whenever a risk exists that the end-user could commit international law violations.

Arms transfers may even engage the exporting States’ international responsibility for aiding or assisting in the commission of such violations.

“Victims must have access to effective legal remedies and be provided with adequate reparation,” Benarbia said.

“The international community must state loud and clear that impunity is not an option. The Security Council should refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court and third States should consider, where feasible, the exercise of universal jurisdiction to prosecute relevant crimes under international law,” he added.


Vito Todeschini, Associate Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +216-71-962-287; e: vito.todeschini(a)

Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)

Yemen-War briefing-News-web story-2018-ENG (full story with background information, English, PDF)

Yemen-War impact on populations-Advocacy-Analysis Brief-2018-ENG (Analysis Brief in English, PDF)

Yemen-War briefing-News-web story-2018-ARA (full story with background information, Arabic, PDF)

Yemen-War impact on populations-Advocacy-Analysis Brief-2018-ARA (Analysis Brief in Arabic, PDF)

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