JEDDAH: An international rights group on Thursday decried the use of land mines by Yemen’s Shiite militias in the impoverished Arab country at war, saying they have killed and maimed hundreds of civilians and prevented many of the displaced from returning to their homes.
In a new report, Human Rights Watch said the Houthis, who are allied with the forces of the country’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have used land mines in at least six provinces since March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition launched its military campaign against them.
Steve Goose, director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, said the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh “have been flouting the land mine ban at the expense of Yemeni civilians.”
He added that Yemen had banned land mines two decades ago.
The Arab coalition has waged a campaign to dislodge the Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital and some other areas in 2014 and forced the internationally-recognized government to flee the country.
Kristine Beckerle, an HRW researcher, said the rights group had found two types of anti-personnel mines previously unreported in Yemen. “It’s time to actually hold parties accountable, investigate and publicly report on what’s going on,” she said.
Beckerle spoke at a joint press conference on Yemen with Jamie McGoldrick, the UN human rights coordinator for the war-torn country. The conference was held in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
HRW also released a photo of one of a dozen claymore-type mines, which release steel balls to a distance of about 100 meters, labeled in Chinese and found in areas that were held by Houthi militias.
The New York-based group cited the Land mine Monitor Initiative by the International Campaign to Ban Land mines as saying that at least 988 people were either killed or wounded by land mines in Yemen since 2015.
Describing one of the more recent land mine incidents, the HRW report recounted how a demining team lost one of its members during a clearance operation in the Nihm Mountains outside of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in January. The team member stepped on a land mine and was killed; a second lost his legs the next day.
The report also cited an incident in May last year in which a young man died and his mother was wounded when they stepped on land mines near their home. The displaced family was returning home to the Nihm Mountains when the incident happened.
Days later, one of the family’s neighbors lost his legs in another land mine explosion that also killed several sheep, HRW said.
Meanwhile, Christiaan K. James, Arabic language spokesman at the State Department, told Asharq Al-Awsat, the sister publication of Arab News, that the US has repeatedly raised concerns about Iran’s destabilizing role in Yemen and other Arab states.
“We continue to hold the Iranian government accountable for its actions using a variety of tools at our disposal,” James said. “Iran remains a designated state sponsor of terror and we continue to enforce all non-nuclear related sanctions against Iran, which include those authorities that focus on Iran’s support for terrorism and its destabilizing activities in the region.”
“We will continue to work with our partners and allies to disrupt Iran’s material and financial support to militant and terrorist groups in the region,” James said.
On the US role in Yemen, James said: “The US government’s goal for the conflict in Yemen remains consistent. Our goal is to work with our international partners, including the UN special envoy, to bring peace, prosperity and security to Yemen.”
— With input from AP