Ibrahim Abdulkareem holding his one year old daughter, Zainab, for the last time before her burial.

Ibrahim Abdulkareem holding his one year old daughter, Zainab, for the last time before her burial.

Extrajudicial Executions committed by the Saudi-led Coalition: The Case of Abdulkareem

Historical Background

1.  On 26 March 2015, a Coalition led by Saudi Arabia consisting of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, andMorocco (together “the Coalition”) launched a war on the people of Yemen without a UN mandate. From the outset, this Coalition was supported politically, diplomatically, and militarily by the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, and Turkey. Upon launching the war, the Saudi Coalition conducted airstrikes that killed and injured hundreds of civilians and leveled civilian infrastructure. After three weeks of airstrikes, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2216 on 14 April 2015, placing an arms embargo on 5 named individuals in Yemen.[2]

2. According to the Legal Center for Rights and Development, in the first 12 months of the war, 9136 civilians in Yemen were killed by Saudi Coalition airstrikes and shelling, including 5271 men (58%), 1654 women (18%), and 2211 children (24%).  A further 16,690 civilians have been injured, including 12996 men (78%), 1714 women (10%), 1980 children (12%).  A further 2.4 million persons have been internally displaced. Coalition airstrikes also targeted and destroyed tens of thousands of residential homes.

Statement of Facts and Allegations

3. On 3 July 2015 at 1:30 A.M., a Coalition airstrike targeted and struck the home of Ibrahim Abdulkareem, who recounts what happened to his family on that fateful evening:

We were sleeping at our home in Western Al-Jeraf in Al-Thawra district, when suddenly, I don’t know what happened to us.  I found myself in a place resembling a disaster, not my home in which I had slept reassured, where my wife and children slept in peace and safety.  I was awakened by my wife’s screams and the voices of people calling out “Ibrahim! Ibrahim!” and my home became Hell from the horrors of the scene, the sounds of moaning, and the screams of my wife and neighbors.  I was trying to find the door that led to the room where the rest of my family was, but I couldn’t open it, so I climbed from the living room wall to the room in which my family slept, and I found the debris half way up the room.  My wife was screaming from beneath the rubble “My legs! Legs!” whilst half of her body was under the rubble.  I tried with all the strength God gave me to remove the rocks that were on top of my daughter.  My daughter Zainab, who was not yet a year old, was entirely buried beneath the debris that fell upon us from the house next door.

4.  Ibrahim was able to remove his wife and one year old daughter, Zainab, from underneath the rubble and place them both into an ambulance which brought them to Al-Muayed Hospital.  Zainab was then transferred to Al-Thawra General Hospital because it was better equipped to handle the critical condition she was in.  Upon arrival at Al-Thawra General Hospital’s emergency room, his daughter Zainab was pronounced dead.

5.   He rushed back to the Al-Muayed hospital to see his wife who had blood and fractures all over her lower body.  Because the Almuayed hospital was ill-equipped potentially as a result of the blockade on medical supplies, the doctor attempted to fit an external device that proved to be useless to Ibrahim’s wife’s legs. Ibrahim transferred his wife to Al-Thawra hospital who replaced the external device with a cast.  She was then taken out of the hospital and placed in her father’s home until a third surgery was to be performed to fixate her leg bone with an intramedullary nail. 

6.  The suffering caused is not limited to the death and injury of Ibrahim’s family members but extends to not having a home in which to shelter his family.  Currently, Ibrahim moves from house to house while his injured wife and surviving son stay at Ibrahim’s father-in-law’s home.

Legal Analysis

7.  The right to life finds its most general recognition in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the inherent right of every person to life, adding that this right “shall be protected by law” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life.” The right to life of persons under the age of 18 and the obligation of States to guarantee the enjoyment of this right to the maximum extent possible are both specifically recognized in article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

8.  In accordance with Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and pursuant to several other United Nations declarations and conventions, everyone is entitled to the protection of the right to life without distinction or discrimination of any kind, and all persons shall be guaranteed equal and effective access to remedies for the violation of this right.

9.  Article 5 of the Arab Charter for Human Rights reaffirms that “every individual has the right to life, liberty and security of person. These rights shall be protected by law.”

10.  The killing of civilians - such as in the case of Ibrahim Abdulkareem’s family members - and injuries as well as the destruction of Yemen’s civilian infrastructure occurred and continue to occur due to a unilateral decision by Saudi Arabia and members of its Coalition to launch a war on Yemen without a UN mandate.

11.   On 26 September 2014, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 27/21 and Corr.1 on human rights and unilateral coercive measures. The resolution stresses that unilateral coercive measures and legislation are contrary to international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States, and highlights that in the long-term these measures may result in social problems and raise humanitarian concerns in targeted States.

12. From Human Rights Council resolution 27/21, “one can infer that unilateral coercive measures are measures including, but not limited to, economic and political ones, imposed by States or groups of States to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights with a view to securing some specific change in its policy.”[3]

13.  It is our understanding that the Special Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures will consider as unilateral coercive measures 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 UNSC decisions without adding to or retrenching from their content, pursuant to articles 25, 48(2) and 103 of the Charter.

14. UN Security Council Resolutions 2140 and 2216 involve an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on 5 named individuals.  These resolutions are not UNSC 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 27 million Yemenis that has exponentially exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen and dramatically decreased the amount of food, medical, and fuel supplies to hospitals across Yemen, a situation that makes it extremely difficult for people like Ibrahim Abdulkareem to get the healthcare he needed during a life-threatening situation.  While UNSC 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 UNSC Resolution 2216 into a “comprehensive” coercive measure that violates the human rights of 27 million Yemenis, including Ibrahim Abdulkareem.

15.  Furthermore, the comprehensiveness of the unilateral coercive measures amounts to a collective reprisal punishing innocent civilians such as Ibrahim Abdulkareem and his family members which is in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.[4] 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 or of terrorism are prohibited.”  In the past 12 months, the Saudi Coalition use of daily airstrikes and its imposition of a comprehensive land, air and sea blockade on the entire population of Yemen in order to deter a group called the “Houthis”, who constitute less than one percent of the population, contravenes the principles of proportionality, distinction and military necessity and serves as a collective punishment of the entire population.

16. The Coalition airstrike on the Ibrahim’s family home and the ensuing injuries and deaths was a violation of the Ibrahim’s family’s right to life, while the Coalition imposed blockade has largely made matters extremely difficult for the surviving family to access suitable healthcare due to the airstrikes on hospitals and the blockade on essential food, medical and fuel supplies.

17. Taken together, the airstrikes and blockade are unilateral Saudi Coalition coercive measures impeding generally the Yemeni people’s and specifically Ibrahim’s family’s right to life, self determination and development.  These unilateral coercive measures have created obstacles to trade relations among States and impede the full realization of social and economic development and hinder the well-being of the population in Yemen, with particular consequences for women, children, including adolescents, the elderly and persons with disabilities such as Ibrahim’s wife. Ibrahim’s predicament is just one example of thousands of others suffering from Coalition measures imposed on Yemen. Furthermore, the measures taken by the Saudi Coalition are deliberately inflicted on the Yemeni people to create conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction or subjugation.  This conduct appears to rise to the level of crimes of war, genocide and crimes against humanity.



[1] All statements of allegations are based on local and international NGOs, the various UN organs, the Executive Director of ARWA, and complainant and witness testimony.  Media reports are only cited to show that the allegations have been reported by media outlets in various countries across the world.

[2] Security Council Demands End to Yemen Violence, Adopting Resolution 2216 (2015), with Russian Federation Abstaining, 14 April 2015, http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc11859.doc.htm

[3] Idriss Jazairy, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, A/HRC/30/45, 10 August 2015, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session30/Pages/ListReports.aspx

[4] See Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Art. 33.