Watch the damage caused to Yemen's ports including cranes, berthing points, warehouses and facilities due to Saudi Coalition airstrikes
Listen to an audio recording between Saudi Coalition and Hodeida Port Control on threatening airstrikes on 4 March 2016
Listen to an audio recording between Saudi Coalition and Hodeida Port Control on threatening airstrikes on 24 January 2017
Listen to an audio recording between Saudi Coalition and Hodeida Port Control on threatening airstrikes against Saleef Port on 31 January 2017
1. On 26 March 2015, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia consisting of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, (together “the Coalition”) launched a military intervention to “defend the legitimate government of President Hadi from the takeover attempts by the Houthi militias in Yemen.” From the outset, the Coalition was supported politically, diplomatically, and militarily by the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, and Turkey. The Saudi-led Coalition conducted airstrikes that killed and injured hundreds of civilians and leveled civilian infrastructure.
2. After about two months of war without achieving its stated official objectives and after failing to convince Egypt[ii], Pakistan[iii] and Turkey[iv] to provide ground troops, the Coalition sought out other ways to bolster its troops on the ground in preparation for a ground invasion. To achieve that end, the Coalition hired foreign troops and mercenaries. After months of stalemate, the number of countries participating in the Coalition increased to include Sudan[v] and Senegal[vi], both sending large numbers of troops to Yemen. In addition to hiring Sudanese and Senegalese troops, the Coalition relied and continues to rely on the use of mercenaries to continue hostilities.
3. According to the Legal Center for Rights and Development, in the first 600 days of war, 11,252 civilians in Yemen were killed by Saudi Coalition airstrikes and shelling, including 7,009 men (62%), 1,802 women (16%), and 2,441 children (22%). A further 19,203 civilians have been injured, including 15059 men (78%), 1902 women (10%), 2242 children (12%). A further 3 million persons have been internally displaced. Coalition airstrikes also targeted and destroyed tens of thousands of residential homes. 148 power stations were destroyed. 237 water tanks and their distribution networks were targeted and destroyed. 638 food storage facilities were destroyed. 473 food trucks were destroyed. 215 fuel trucks were destroyed. 287 petrol stations were destroyed. 179 livestock and poultry farms were destroyed along with 1376 agricultural fields. 242 factories were destroyed. 514 markets were destroyed. 1226 bridges and roads were struck and either damaged or destroyed. 263 hospitals and clinics and 712 schools were targeted and completely or partially destroyed by Saudi Coalition airstrikes and shelling. 15 Airports and 12 seaports and harbors were destroyed.[vii]
4. In addition to airstrikes, the Saudi Coalition imposed a comprehensive land, air and sea blockade on Yemen under the cover of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216, which involves an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on five named individuals. The Saudi Coalition stopped ships at will, and over the course of the first 600 days of war delayed their entry for days, weeks or months at a time under the pretext of ongoing weapons searches, granting them entry at times only after a coerced bribe.
5. In May 2016, former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the U.N. Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM). The UNVIM is designed to facilitate the unimpeded flow of commercial goods and services to 3 Yemeni ports - Saleef, Mokha, Hodeida and associated oil terminals - while ensuring compliance with the arms embargo imposed by the U.N. Security Council. In effect, the UNVIM addresses the Coalition’s blockade by establishing a U.N. mechanism for searching and inspecting incoming ships for weapons, making the process more efficient and thereby helping to alleviate the mass suffering caused by the blockade.
6. In his update to the U.N. Security Council on 31 October 2016, the Undersecretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’brien stated that offloading cargo can take up to 30 days because of 1) inefficient port management, 2) financial disputes among shippers and above all 3) slow offloading due to limited capacity at Hodeida port which was severely damaged by airstrikes in August 2015. As a consequence, fuel imports have averaged a fifth of the pre-airstrikes levels since February 2016.[viii] In his most recent update to the U.N. Security Council on 26 January 2017, O’brien stated that “delays in receiving clearances are also due to restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led Coalition such as the hampering of vessels’ access to Yemeni Red Sea ports and the absence of clear lists of prohibited items.”[ix] Providing an example of the Coalition’s interference with incoming cargo ships, O’brien stated that “a vessel carrying four WFP-procured mobile cranes has arrived in the Red Sea, but has been ordered by Saudi authorities to leave Yemeni waters and is now anchored 15 miles off Yemen’s coast. The vessel is awaiting the Coalition’s approval to berth at the port. These cranes will boost the port’s capacity in handling humanitarian cargo. Two of the cranes will be used exclusively by the U.N. (WFP) and help expedite the timely delivery of vital humanitarian aid supplies.”[x] Unfortunately, even with U.N. involvement and mechanisms in place, the Coalition continues to have the final word on cargo attempting to enter Hodeida port, which is the lifeline of the population handling more than eighty percent (80%) of imports into Yemen before the war began.
Statement of Facts and Allegations
7. On 18 August 2015, the Saudi Coalition targeted Hodeida Port with at least nine air strikes that hit and incapacitated all cranes, destroyed walkways, grain silos and paralyzed activity.[xi] ARWA’s Executive Director confirmed the event stating that in addition air strikes have hit all cranes, facilities and equipment including the 4 main cranes, berthing points, the building housing the port’s control room, a warehouse belonging to the port, the customs building and even a warehouse belonging to the World Food Program.
8. The threat of airstrikes on ships attempting to enter Hodeida Port continue up to the time of this complaint. An example of the manner in which the Saudi Coalition deals with the shipments of commercial goods, whether they come in the form of humanitarian assistance or as part of commercial trade, is the following summary of audio recordings,[xii] obtained by ARWA, between the Saudi Coalition and the Port Authority in Hodeida:
a. On 4 March 2016, the Saudi-led Coalition contacted the Port Authority in Hodeida (PAH) declaring it an operational strike zone demanding that all ships docked at the Port leave by 8am the next day.
b. The Saudi-led Coalition requested the names of the ships present in the Port. The PAH responded saying the tankers present at the Port include: Ocean Mark, Reef Elaf, JAS Express, Force One, and Patina.
c. The Saudi-led Coalition asked whether there were any other ships present at the Port. The PAH responded in the negative. Thereafter, the Saudi-led Coalition threatened that if there are other ships present at the dock, the PAH will hold responsibility for what happens to the Port or the ships themselves. The PAH then asked for the timing of the strikes, to which the Saudi-led Coalition answered that the initial strikes would begin in 20 minutes and that the PAH had until 8:00 A.M. the following day to identify the location of the certain ships including Cruiser, Diyab, Jumana and that if they are present in the Port that PAH will be responsible for the repercussions and that they must leave the Port immediately. The Coalition stated that if any other ships were present at the Port they would be targeted by Saudi Coalition strikes by the air force or navy.
d. The PAH contacted the Coalition and asked about the duration of the strikes, stating that there were some ships that would leave the Port in the next couple of hours.
e. The Saudi-led Coalition contacted the PAH and said that there is no time for any of the ships to leave as the strikes had already begun, and that at 8:00 A.M. the following day full fledge strikes would take place targeting all ships warning that Cruiser, Diyab, Jumana are suspect ships and that at 8:00 A.M. they would become legitimate targets to which the PAH would hold responsibility for what ensues. The PAH denied that those ships were present in the Port. The Coalition said that it wants all ships to leave so that they can allow authorized ships to enter. The Coalition asked for the ships that were present once more and the PAH said that it would revert with a list.
9. On or about 24 January 2017, the Coalition threatened airstrikes on a shipnamed Orix stating that it must respond to the Coalition or else airstrikes will target the ship inside Saleef Port.[xiii]
10. On or about 31 January 2017, the Coalition threatened airstrikes on all merchants ships and ports in Yemen.[xiv]
11. On 1 February 2017, the management of the Red Seas Port Corporation issued a statement condemning the threats of airstrikes on merchant ships and Yemen’s ports claiming that the Coalition is using a false narrative of military activity by the ports to justify its coercive actions and labeling of Hodeida port a military zone.[xv]
12. Airstrikes on civilians and civilian objects such as ports and transportation networks and the blockade on food, medical and fuel imports impedes the Yemeni people’s right to food and medicine, and their right to development in violation of Article 1(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which enshrines the right of everyone to “freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” It is also a violation of Article 11(1) which enshrines the right of everyone to “an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food.” Furthermore, these Coalition actions are a violation of Article 12(1) which recognizes the right to the “enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”
13. The comprehensive land, air and sea blockade amounts to a collective reprisal, which is in violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Convention IV. Article 33 states that when it comes to the protection of civilians in times of war, “no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation…are prohibited.” In the past 22 months, the Saudi Coalition’s imposition of a comprehensive land, air and sea blockade on Yemen contravenes the principles of proportionality, distinction and military necessity.
14. It is our understanding that unilateral coercive measures are any measures other than those taken by the Security Council under Article 41 of the Charter of the United Nations, which include but are not limited to “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.” To qualify the interpretation of Article 41, it is also our understanding that Member States have to comply with U.N. Security Council decisions without adding to or retrenching from their content, pursuant to articles 25, 48(2) and 103 of the Charter. While U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 may have been intended as a “smart” coercive measure designed to place an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on 5 specifically named individuals, the actual use transformed U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 into a “comprehensive” coercive measure that violates the human rights of millions of Yemenis.
15. U.N. Security Council Resolutions 2140 and 2216 involve an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on 5 named individuals. They are not U.N. Security Council resolutions sanctioning war on Yemen, nor do they make permissible the imposition of a comprehensive land, air, and sea blockade that blocks regular trade, both import and export, in commercial goods, including food, medical, fuel supplies, and humanitarian aid. Despite the limitations of these resolutions, the Saudi Coalition unilaterally launched a war by land, air and sea citing the resolutions to justify a blockade on millions of Yemenis that has exponentially exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.
[i] All statements of allegations are based on field work and discussions with local and international NGOs, the various UN organs, the Yemeni Ministry of Public Health and Population, the Yemeni Supreme Board for Drugs and Medical Appliances, the Yemen Red Sea Ports Corporation and the Executive Director of ARWA. Media reports are only cited to show that the statements made herein have been reported by media outlets from various countries across the world.
[ii] Mohammed Aboud, Egypt allegedly sends ground forces into Yemen quagmire, The Middle East Eye, 9 August 2015. http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egyptians-allegedly-sends-ground-forces-yemen-quagmire-132459953#sthash.qu9yz0EN.dpuf
[iii] Mohammad Mukashaf, Pakistan declines Saudi call for armed support in Yemen fight, Reuters, 10 April 2015. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-idUSKBN0N10LO20150410
[iv] Blog, Turkish and Saudi leaders discuss Yemen conflict, The Middle East Eye, 27 March 2015. http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/live-blog-saudi-and-arab-allies-bomb-houthi-positions-yemen-1521000548
[vi] Ishaan Tharoor, Why Senegal is sending troops to help Saudi Arabia in Yemen, The Washington Post, 5 May 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/05/05/why-senegal-is-sending-troops-to-help-saudi-arabia-in-yemen/
[vii] Legal Center for Rights and Development.
[viii] Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien Statement to the Security Council on Yemen, 31 October 2016, http://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/under-secretary-general-humanitarian-affairs-and-emergency-relief-coordinator-10 [accessed 26 December 2016]
[ix] Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien Statement to the Security Council on Yemen, New York, 26 January 2017, http://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/under-secretary-general-humanitarian-affairs-and-emergency-relief-coordinator-11 [accessed 30 January 2017]
[xii] ARWA obtained audio recordings of the correspondence between the Saudi Coalition and the Port Control in Hodeida. To listen to the recordings click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwlaKZhTuME
[xiii] ARWA obtained audio recordings of the correspondence between the Saudi Coalition and the Port Control in Saleef. To listen to the recordings click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_xbQvgcn-M
[xv] For the Red Sea Ports Corporation Statement click on http://arwarights.org/airstrikes-blockade-on-ports