WASHINGTON – (June 13, 2018) – In response to escalating violence and the initiation of a military assault on Hodeidah, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) Executive Director, Federico Borello, issued the following statement:

“Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) is gravely concerned about the impact of military operations on civilians in Hodeidah. It is very troubling that the Saudi-UAE-led coalition proceeded despite warnings of the catastrophic impact this operation will have on civilians. Moreover, sufficient planning and precautionary steps – as required by international humanitarian law – were not taken. CIVIC implores all parties to immediately take proper precautions to protect civilians and safeguard the port, which provides a lifeline to millions of Yemenis.”

Based on ongoing engagement with civilians in the region, CIVIC MENA & South Asia Director, Sahr Muhammedally, stated:

“We are deeply troubled by the lack of planning by parties to the conflict to protect civilians. It was irresponsible for the coalition and its forces to proceed with an attack on Hodeidah when civilians, and now humanitarians as well, have been forced to flee without any assurances of their safety.

“Parties to the conflict have ordered civilians to leave areas potentially impacted by the offensive, but those orders alone do not constitute effective warnings, especially if they do not allow sufficient time to seek safety. Parties to conflict must ensure they adhere to principles of distinction and proportionality in the conduct of operations and facilitate safe and voluntary movement of civilians. Further, we call on all countries with influence on the parties to the conflict in Yemen to impress upon them their obligation to protect civilians.”

CIVIC Calls on the Saudi-UAE Coalition and Yemeni Government to:

  • Issue orders to all forces to adhere to principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law and protect civilians;
  • Verify coordinates of civilian infrastructure, particularly medical hospitals and clinics, and issue clear guidance down the chain of command to avoid airstrikes or attacks in the vicinity of such places;
  • Ensure proper resources are allocated for assessments of allegations of civilian harm and to receive information from external sources including international and local NGOs in order to adjust tactics and reduce civilian harm;
  • Prohibit forces from using explosive weapons with wide area effects such as multiple barrel rockets and indirect artillery fire given the inaccuracy of such weapons;
  • Ensure all necessary measures are taken to protect key infrastructure in Hodeidah seaport;
  • Facilitate safe movement of civilians leaving Hodeidah in coordination with humanitarian organizations;
  • Coordinate with the UN and humanitarian organizations to allow them to either support cross-line humanitarian assistance inside Hodeidah or at safe locations outside; and
  • As promptly as is feasible, review and update rules of engagement to ensure forces in the air and on the ground are aware of patterns of movement of civilians as they seek safety in order to prevent civilian harm.

CIVIC Calls on the Houthis to:

  • Facilitate safe movement of civilians leaving Hodeidah in coordination with humanitarian organizations; and
  • Refrain from usage of land mines or other munitions with wide area effects.

CIVIC Urges the UK and the US to:

  • Condition all support to the coalition on the adoption and implementation of actionable and trackable measures to reduce civilian harm in adherence with international humanitarian law and facilitate unfettered humanitarian access in Yemen.

Civilian Perspective:

Civilians in Yemen have suffered through three years of conflict and hardship at the hands of all parties to the conflict. As a port city, Hodeidah is the entry point for 80 percent of aid shipments keeping millions of civilians alive in war-torn Yemen. To date, no parties to the conflict are ensuring that civilians can leave Hodeidah safely and reach secure locations where there is adequate shelter, food, water, and medical assistance.

Military operations have expanded east of Hodeidah and north across the coastline, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of civilians over the course of a few short weeks. Amidst intense clashes, families are quickly fleeing without any belongings, save the clothes on their bodies. Displaced persons have told CIVIC that they fled based on warnings from both UAE-based forces and from Houthi fighters. According to these civilians, UAE-backed forces told them to leave because the coalition will ‘clear the areas from the air,’ while Houthi fighters have ordered them to leave so that the fighters can use civilian homes for cover. Eyewitnesses shared with CIVIC that they saw bodies of civilians, as well as those of Houthi fighters, in farms and in villages between Al-Jah and Al-Husayniyah. According to these civilians, UAE Apache helicopters are firing at targets on farms amidst thick palm trees, making it difficult to distinguish between fighters and civilians.

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Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)’s mission is to work with armed actors and civilians in conflict to develop and implement solutions to prevent, mitigate, and respond to civilian harm. Our vision is for a world where parties to armed conflicts recognize the dignity and rights of civilians, prevent civilian harm, protect civilians caught in conflict, and amend harm.

For more information, contact Piper Hendricks at phendricks@civiliansinconflict.org.

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