Yemen: Investigate the killing of civilians in unlawful house demolitions in Al Bayda

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

At least nine civilians were killed and seven injured on 19 March when the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group detonated a residential house in Al Hofra neighborhood in the city of Rada’a, in Al Bayda province southeast of Sanaa. This attack is the latest example of the Houthis’ shocking disregard for the lives of Yemenis, which includes their punitive use of demolitions against civilians in the regions they control. Independent and impartial investigations must be made in this incident and others in order to put an end to the impunity that has fuelled violations by all parties to the conflict, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Yemeni Coalition for Human Rights said today.

At 5 am on 19 March 2024, at least one armored vehicle besieged a residential home and its surroundings, according to interviews conducted by CIHRS with an eyewitness and three rights workers whose teams were on the ground during the attack, and who requested their names to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. They also said that Houthi forces searched the house, forcing residents to leave before setting explosives inside, despite urgent calls from neighbors not to harm the house, as buildings in the neighborhood are densely constructed, thus an explosion in one home will damage its surroundings.

According to the eyewitness, the Houthis blew up the house around 6:30 am, leading to its collapse and severe damage to five other houses. CIHRS received a list of nine names of persons killed during the attack including two children and three women, all from the same family. At least seven people were injured in the attack. According to videos reviewed by CIHRS and to the interviewees, there were no rescue operations, and residents were struggling to pull out victims from under the rubble with their bare hands.

The Houthis released an official statement on 20 March 2024 admitting the incident but insisting that it was the result of a “mistake made by some security men” who “used excessive and illegal force” without orders from their leadership or the ministry of interior. The statement also added that the ministry of interior had formed an investigative committee to bring perpetrators to justice; nevertheless, past incidents of unlawful killing and destruction have been met with total impunity.

The attack on the neighborhood is claimed to be part of a violent dispute between Houthi forces and the targeted homeowner, Ibrahim al-Zalei. Rights violations have been perpetrated by Houthi forces against al-Zalei, and include allegations of the murder of his brother; these allegations were never properly investigated nor the perpetrators held to account.

This is not the first instance of a Houthi attack on civilians that has resulted in casualties in the areas under their control. According to a report released by Mwatana for Human Rights, the Houthis committed 53 attacks in 2021 alone in Hodeidah, Taiz, Marib, Al Bayda, Al Dhale’a, Lahj, and Aden. These attacks allegedly led to tens of civilians killed and injured. To date, no one has been held accountable for these attacks.

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