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Last updated on 19.11.2018 at 08:57


People in Yemen have endured a turbulent time following the 2011 revolution. As the political crisis between Shia Houthi rebels and the government intensified to all out conflict in 2015, the impact on civilians has been catastrophic.

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Conflict intensifies, more journalists killed

Conflict intensifies, more journalists killed

As the conflict intensifies, 13 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation. Journalists killed in airstrike, while the UN human rights council extends the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) in Yemen for another year.

UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen releases report

In recent weeks the conflict in Yemen has intensified with violence becoming unbearable for those left trapped in the country. In October 2018 the UN warned that 13 million people are facing starvation.

In August 2018, the UN Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen released its report documenting violations between for the period between September 2014 to June 2018. In the report, the experts condemned all parties to the conflict, and criticised the coalition’s airstrikes and blockadeYemen’s ports and airports; Houthi attacks on civilians, the use of child soldiers, and restrictions on aid flows; the Government of Yemen’s record of torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance; and the UAE and UAE-backed forces’ record of widespread sexual violence and torture. According to the report, from March 2015 to June 2018, there were at least 16,706 civilian casualties, with 6,475 killed and 10,231 injured in the conflict, although the report acknowledged that the numbers killed and injured are likely to be much higher. The report highlighted the critical restrictions on humanitarian access which have prevented aid from getting to civilians trapped in the war, the widespread use of arbitrary detention throughout the country and the use of torture. The Group of Experts found that parties to the conflict in Yemen have severely restricted the right to freedom of expression and that human rights defenders have faced relentless harassment, threats and smear campaigns from the Government, coalition forces, including those of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the de facto authorities.

Mandate of Group of Eminent Experts extended

In September 2018, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution to extend the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts for an additional year, and requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to provide substantive capacity-building and technical assistance. The resolution empowers the group of experts to continue its work to investigate and report human rights abuses by all parties in the Yemen War.

CSOs prepare submissions ahead of Yemen’s review

Ahead of the Universal Periodic Review of Yemen which will take place in January 2019, on 8th November 2018 a joint submission prepared by the Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, Columbia Law School, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) drew attention to the grave violations of international law that have been committed against civilians in Yemen. The submission highlights the need to end impunity for the numerous violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law that have been carried out since the conflict began in 2014 by all parties to the conflict, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture by state and non-state actors, as well as the recruitment of child soldiers, persecution of minorities, and the denial of humanitarian access.


Within the context of the conflict, violations to the right to freedom of expression have continued unabated. In September 2018, according to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate and Yemeni TV station Belqees, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, four people were killed when a Saudi airstrike hit Ansar Allah-controlled Al-Maraweah Radio Broadcasting Center, in Al-Maraweah District in Hodeida Governorate. The victims were named as Omar Ezzi Mohammad, a radio broadcast engineer for the station, Ali Aish Mohammad Youssef and Jamaie Abdullah Musib, both building guards for the station and Abeed Heba Ali, a farmer in the vicinity of the station. Since the conflict started in 2014, the CPJ has documented kidnaps, attacks, arson, judicial cases, and killings of journalists and attacks against media organisations.

CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said:

"Coalition authorities must investigate this attack immediately and thoroughly, and the international community should send a clear message to coalition authorities that the media are never legitimate military targets."


The Yemeni constitution announced in January 2015 guarantees the freedom to form associations and civil society organisations.

The Yemeni constitution announced in January 2015 guarantees the freedom to form associations and civil society organisations. CSOs are obliged to register with the government and should notify authorities if receiving foreign funds. While independent trade unions do exist, their right to collective bargaining can be vetoed. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Yemen and members of the LGBTI community risk persecution from authorities and religious extremist groups; making the work of LGBTI organisations impossible. Since Houthi groups have taken control of government, new registrations of civil society have become non-existent. Only groups affiliated to the rebels are allowed to operate and independent groups working on working on human rights issues are particularly susceptible to attack. The Houthi rebels have orchestrated the systematic dissolution of CSOs operating in areas under their control. In 2015 alone, Amnesty International documented at least 27 NGOs forced out of operation in Sana’a. Rebel groups have targeted civic organisations for being “foreign agents”, implemented travel bans, raided NGO offices, as well as harassed, intimidated and surveiled NGO employees and activists.

Peaceful Assembly

Yemeni citizens, political parties, organisations and trade unions have a right to the freedom of peaceful assembly if they notify the authorities 72 hours in advance.

Yemeni citizens, political parties, organisations and trade unions have a right to the freedom of peaceful assembly if they notify the authorities 72 hours in advance. Despite such a lengthy notification period being in contravention of international best practice, traditionally the people of Yemen have been able to exercise their right to peacefully assembly. However, this ability to protest has been largely wiped out. On 24th March, 2015 Houthi rebels opened fired on a protest in South Yemen killing 6 people and wounding dozens. Protesters fear arrest, violence and retaliation for mobilising, drawing international condemnation over the dire situation for their rights. However, even in this repressive context some protests are allowed to take place. In March 2016, tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered in Sana’a to show their opposition to the Saudi led bombing campaigns.


Despite constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression, journalists in Yemen face extraordinary risks.

Despite constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression, journalists in Yemen face extraordinary risks. After the 2011 revolution the number of print and electronic media increased, but these gains were short lived. The breakdown of security, political crisis and open conflict mean that independent reporters are regularly subjected to censorship, threats and violence. At least 13 journalists have been killed in Yemen since 1992. In practice, state and non-state actors control the airwaves. Arbitrary detention and abduction of critical journalists is rife meaning that self-censorship is imperative to ensure survival. Furthermore, internet freedom is increasingly controlled by the authorities, depriving freedom of expression on the net. All of these factors combine to make Yemen one of the worst performing countries for media freedom in the world.