Yemen has been embroiled in a bloody civil war since 2014, when the country’s government was ousted by rebels following an unsuccessful political transition. In 2011, popular protests fueled by the Arab Spring movement forced longtime authoritarian leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down and be replaced by his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. After coming to power, Hadi struggled to maintain control of Yemen, which was plagued by jihadist attacks, corruption, unemployment, and food scarcity. Dissatisfied with the country’s political leadership, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who represent the Zaidi Shia minority, seized control of various parts of Yemen, including the capital of Sanaa in late 2014. A coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates established a military mission to restore the Hadi government. Since then, Hadi has relocated his administration to Saudi Arabia, from where he leads a Yemeni government in exile. Despite a prolonged military campaign, the Saudi-led coalition has failed to restore any semblance of balance to Yemen. The conflict has taken an extraordinary toll on Yemen’s civilians, who have been brutally victimized by both sides. Human rights violations and crimes against humanity have become commonplace in Yemen, and the conflict has shown few signs of declining.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is one of the worst in the world. Estimates from the United Nations indicate there have been over 15,000 civilian casualties, with 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid, including 8 million who are at severe risk of famine. Both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels have committed severe human rights violations over the course of Yemen’s civil war, including summary executions, forced disappearances, indiscriminate bombing, and sexual and gender-based violence. Additionally, efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Yemeni civilians have been obstructed, with the Saudi-led coalition the primary culprit behind the blocking of vital aid. Despite the grave humanitarian situation in Yemen, the perpetrators of human rights violations remain unpunished. Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and France have become complicit in crimes against civilians in Yemen through arms and weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition. Additionally, crimes committed by the Houthis have also contributed to severe violations of international law in Yemen. Until the bellicose parties are condemned internationally, and a coherent plan is developed to protect civilians, human rights violations in Yemen are likely to continue.