Armies of Liberation

Jane Novak's blog about Yemen

Yemen Centre for Transitional Justice calls for de-militarized cities

Filed under: Military, Pres Hadi, mil restrucuturing — by Jane Novak at 2:12 pm on Friday, May 17, 2013

Statement from YCTJ

An Urgent Appeal to Yemeni President Abdu-Rabbo Mansour Hadi: Remove All Military Bases from the Major Cities of Yemen

His Excellency President Abdu-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, President of the Republic of Yemen.

Dear Excellency:

The Yemeni Center for Transitional Justice takes this opportunity to congratulate Your Excellency on the launching of the Comprehensive National Dialogue on March 18, 2013 and wishes to express the appreciation of the YCTJ on your concerted efforts to bring peace, security and political stability to Yemen. We hope that the National Dialogue will lead to concrete decisions that strongly respond to the needs and aspirations of the Yemeni people and that best serve the interests of all Yemenis.

We are very concerned about the widespread existence of military bases and installations inside the major densely populated cities of Yemen. Your Excellency has certainly noticed the previous recent crash of a military aircraft of February 19, 2013, in which 12 citizens needlessly lost their lives. You will also recall that the fall of a military aircraft in November 2012 killed 10 Yemeni citizens, In addition there were more than 400 civilians killed in Ta’ez and Sana’a City during the armed confrontations that took place during the Yemeni Uprising of 2011.

In the latter, it was clear that major Yemeni cities were literally turned into battlefields for the political combatants. Undoubtedly this was primarily due to the location of military bases in the midst of highly populated areas of these cities. Among the civilian victims of these unfortunate armed confrontations were rising number of cases of Vitiligo (whitening of skin) and nocturnal enuresis (involuntary urination) among children, who resided near the Central Security Military Base in Ta’ez City, as reported by many physicians. As a result of the armed conflict in that area and the excessive use of force, there were many children who experienced sudden stress caused by the dreadful sounds of ordnances and the thunderous firepower unleashed in these conflicts, all of which caused such illnesses.

The fight against Al-Qaeda insurgents in Abyan also led to disastrous results for civilians there. The military bases, depots and ammunition stores targeted by AQAP insurgents were all too close to civilian residential homes and working areas in the cities of Abyan Governorate. The subsequent death of at least 150 civilians in the munitions factory attack in Ja’ar by Al-Qaeda in March 28, 2011 is testimony to the senseless presence of these military installations in the middle of cities. Half of these civilian victims were women and children.

The extensive presence of military installations and facilities amidst densely populated areas clearly constitute a clear violation of international customary norms and practices . They also certainly evoke obvious breaches of international and local humanitarian law, including, inter alia, Article 13(1) of the Additional Protocol II[8] as well as Article 8 of the Second Protocol for the Protection of Cultural Property[9].

These military bases and installations occupy large surface areas in already congested cities. They also force more beneficial and useful projects, such as schools, hospitals, and parks to be relocated outside the cities, thus increasing the hardships of citizens to reach and have access to the services of these important civilian facilities. This presents an important opportunity to convert these dangerous military installations and bases to become useful public parks, educational facilities and hospitals and other more useful projects that will better serve the public.

Therefore, we urge Your Excellency to take an unprecedented historic initiative and reform this archaic aspect of the old regime, which literally used cities as military bases. The Yemeni people will appreciate this important development and will surely support you in this monumental decision. This would be especially significant as Yemen is undergoing a transitionary period and the priority needs of the Yemeni people at this important stage is to establish security, safety and peace. Your initiation of this step during your presidency will ensure for Your Excellency a praiseworthy place in the history of our country and will promise to bring a peaceful life for the future. In addition the decision will be a step in the right direction towards achieving a real democratic transition.

With all due respect to your Presidency and to the authority of your esteemed transitional government, we appeal to Your Excellency to take this highly important step and proceed to relocate all military bases and installations at safe distances outside Yemeni cities.

Respectfully yours,

The Yemeni Center for Transitional Justice

[1] 14 January 2010

[2] Found Human Rights Watch, “Disappearances and Arbitrary Arrests in the Armed Conflict with Huthi Rebels in Yemen”, 24 October 2008 (ISBN: 1-56432-392-7).

[3] Article 13(1) Additional Protocol II stipulates that “the civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against the dangers arising from military operations”

[4] Article 8 of the 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property provides: “The Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible: … b) avoid locating military objectives near cultural property.” In the event of international armed conflict it would be a violation of Article 58 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I which states that the parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible “avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas”.
[5] Article 4(2)(c) and Article 13(1) Additional Protocol II

[6] Yemen’s Military Criminal Code (1998), the “use of civilians as human shields during war operations” constitutes a war crime.

[7] In the event of an international armed conflict, it would contravene Third Geneva Convention, Article 23; Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 28; Additional Protocol I, Article 51(7)

[8] Article 13(1) Additional Protocol II stipulates that “the civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against the dangers arising from military operations”.

[9] Article 8 of the 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property provides: “The Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible: … b) avoid locating military objectives near cultural property.” In the event of international armed conflict it would be a violation of Article 58 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I which states that the parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible “avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas”.

Ahlam M Mothanna
Secretary General
Yemen Centre for Transitional Justice (YCTJ)

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