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

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 Saturday, 11 July 2015 at around 2:00 P.M., a Coalition airstrike targeted and killed 8 members of the Al Awadi family while they were driving on a highway that links the Shabwah and AlBayda provinces.  People at the scene said that Coalition airplanes flew over the highway, targeted and struck a vehicle that was carrying diesel that resulted in the death of the driver and passengers.  Shortly thereafter, a second Coalition airstrike hit another vehicle whose driver managed to escape beforehand.  The Al Awadi family was not so fortunate, however.  The vehicle that was carrying eight of the Al Awadi family members was the third target struck by Coalition warplanes, dismembering and incinerating what remained of their bodies.  Hassan Hussein Saleh Al Awadi (Hassan Al Awadi), the son, brother, and nephew of the deceased family members, recounts his experience and thoughts when he arrived at the scene of the crime:

“It’s difficult to describe what happened. When I arrived to the place of the bombing, I could not believe what I was seeing. I was shocked and I will never be able to forget the sight of mutilated body parts of my loved ones burned and charred. This image still haunts my dreams and I am unable to forget it. This is how criminals transformed our lives. We were once a happy family, regardless of the hardships we endured. My father, mother, brothers and uncle are all gone.”[3]

4.  The Coalition airstrike killed the following persons of relation to Hassan Al Awadi:


5.  The deaths of Hassan Al Awadi’s family members have left his remaining family further impoverished. Hassan currently lives in Ataq, Shabwa in a rental apartment consisting of two rooms and a kitchen with what remains of his family, which is made up of women and children.  Hassan is 29 years old, and as a father of three is now responsible for over 17 relatives who survived the eight deceased family members killed in the Coalition airstrike. Although he has a high school diploma for the sciences and understands the basics of aerial surveillance, he is currently unemployed. He relies on his father’s salary of $150 and his uncle’s salary of $200 to cover the needs of 17 family members in addition to his wife and 4 children.  To make matters more difficult, since Hassan’s deceased uncle is in debt, the bank deducts half his paycheck of $200 every month, leaving him with $250 per month to cover the needs of 21 people including his two younger brothers who attend secondary and primary school, his four sisters, of whom the youngest is 3 years old, his deceased brother’s daughter, his uncle's family totaling ten including seven girls, two boys and their mother in addition to Hassan’s wife and three children.

6.   Hassan states that it has proven difficult to find work given the dramatic decrease in job opportunities due to the airstrikes and blockade on the country.

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 Hassan Al Awadi’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.”[4]

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 employment opportunities across Yemen, a situation that makes it extremely difficult for people like Hassan Al Awadi to make ends meet.  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 Hassan Al Awadi’s who is seeking employment and a salary that will cover the needs of twenty two people he is now responsible for due to the Coalition airstrike that killed most of the breadwinners in his family.

15.  Furthermore, the comprehensiveness of the unilateral coercive measures amounts to a collective reprisal punishing innocent civilians such as Hassan Al Awadi and his family members which is in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.[5] 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 Al Awadi family’s vehicle and the ensuing deaths was a violation of the Al Awadi family’s right to life, while the Coalition imposed blockade has largely made matters extremely difficult for the surviving family to make ends meet due to the dramatic decrease in employment opportunities across Yemen 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 the Al Awadi 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. Hassan Al Awadi’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.

18. According to Ms. Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, “the deliberate starvation of civilians in both international and internal armed conflict may constitute a war crime, and could also constitute a crime against humanity in the event of deliberate denial of food and also the deprivation of food sources or supplies…the right to food does not cease in times of conflict, indeed it becomes more crucial as a result of the acute vulnerabilities in which individuals find themselves.”[6]



[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] Written testimony of Hassan Hussein Saleh Al Awadi, the son, brother, and nephew of the deceased family members submitted to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.

[4] 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

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

[6] Yemen: amid food crisis, UN expert warns of deliberate starvation of civilians, UN News Centre, 11 August 2015. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51605#.VwvavPkrLIV