The Saudi-Led Blockade in Yemen and their Dark War Crimes: A Human Rights Crisis

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The European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) is deeply concerned about the appalling atrocities happening in Yemen’s civil war, specifically the Saudi-led blockades. The civil war began in late 2014 and has been categorised as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”[i] by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The Saudi-led coalition has been using air strikes, blockades to provide humanitarian aid, and torture since March 2015[ii]. This unjustifiable military intervention has adverse effects on human rights in Yemen, making this a severe crisis that must be addressed promptly.

Dark War Crimes

Given that approximately 90% of Yemen’s food supply is imported, the blockade is directly contributing to the widespread famine. As of March 2024, 17.3 million Yemenis are suffering from acute food insecurity, including six million people who are at risk of famine[iii]. The coalition’s actions have detrimental effects on the livelihood of those in Yemen. The blockade is taking away people’s access to food and water, which violates their fundamental rights. This war tactic must be stopped and condemned immediately. There have already been more than 377,000 people who have lost their lives due to the consequences of the war, of which over 60% is due to famine and lack of access to vital necessities caused by the coalition.

The Security Belt forces, backed by the United Arab Emirates, have been found guilty of sexual assault[iv] as well as unlawful detention and torture[v]. The use of sexual violence has long been used as a war tactic, which is why international humanitarian laws prohibit it. These crimes have gone predominantly unaddressed by the international community but require immediate attention. It is inconceivable that the paramilitary unit that is supposed to monitor counter-terrorism and law enforcement is the one that is committing heinous human rights violations. The United Nations has reported that the Security Belt forces have not only recruited child soldiers but have also killed and abducted children[vi]. Their crimes must be investigated fully to understand the extent of the crimes committed, and to ensure they are stopped and held accountable.


Saudi Arabia submitted its national report to the Human Rights Council for its fourth Universal Periodic Review[vii], where it claims to have already addressed nine of the twelve recommendations from the previous review regarding its involvement in Yemen. The most significant recommendations it has failed to address are those of the Islamic Republic of Iran to “end immediately the blockade of Yemen and respect international humanitarian law” and to “stop committing war crimes and end the serious violation of international humanitarian and human rights law”[viii].  This is a direct violation of international humanitarian laws, which Saudi Arabia is legally obligated to uphold given it is a state party to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Therefore, not only are the actions of the Saudi-led coalition in breach of these laws, but so is the Saudi government’s inaction.

Despite the ongoing blockades, the delegation of Saudi Arabia claims that the country has played an important role in providing humanitarian aid to Yemen[ix]. At the time of writing, it has been three years since the government announced an initiative to end the crisis in Yemen. Yet, there continue to be human rights violations occurring, steered by the Saudi-led coalition. It is important to emphasize that the aid provided by Saudi Arabia should not be considered as a replacement for stopping the coalition’s blockade and human rights violations.

The lack of a monitoring system is a grave concern for the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights. In 2017, the Human Rights Council established the Group of Eminent Experts to monitor and report human rights violations in Yemen[x]. This was in operation until October 2021, when the Council rejected the mandate renewal due to the strong lobbying of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is especially concerning that 21 of the 47 Members of the Council voted against the renewal of the mandate. Since then, there has been no independent and impartial system put in place to monitor the human rights violations in Yemen. This is a clear negligence of the requests by Yemeni civil societies and international human rights organizations such as ours to establish new impartial accountability mechanisms for Yemen. Without such measures, the violation will continue unchecked.

Action required 

The European Center for Democracy and Human Rights urges the Human Rights Council to re-establish an independent and impartial international monitoring system to report on the human rights violations and war crimes occurring in Yemen. As part of this, there must be an emphasis on holding not only Saudi Arabia accountable for its actions, but also the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Canada for supporting the coalition. It is imperative that the Council stops the coalition’s blockades to ensure that there is unimpeded humanitarian access. Furthermore, the United Nations must facilitate cooperation amongst all parties involved in the war to reach a peaceful political solution.

The Human Rights Council’s priorities must be the safety of Yemeni civilians and combatting against the impunity of human rights violations. Without immediate and concrete actions, the war in Yemen will only continue to escalate, as will the human rights violations. This will require strong international collaboration, and we must listen to the requests of Yemeni civil societies who are witnessing the crisis first-hand. There must also be strategies to address the long-term effects of this war and the instability that created it. Yemen must not be left with the sole responsibility of rebuilding its country given that the international community is also complicit in this crisis.



[i]  OCHA, Global Humanitarian Overview 2018, 5 December 2017, page 3

[ii]  ECDHR, War crimes in Yemen: a long-overdue call for accountability, 16 March 2022

[iii]  UNHCR, Yemen Crisis Explained, 21 March 2024

[iv]  ADHRB, Yemen: The Forgotten War’s Crimes Must Be Remembered, 13 July 2022

[v]  U.S Department of State, 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Yemen, 22 April 2024

[vi]  GA Security Council, A/76/871-S/2022/493, 23 June 2022

[vii]  A/HRC/WG.6/45/SAU/1, 13 November 2023

[viii]  A/HRC/40/4, 26 December 2018, p.14

[ix]  IBID, p.9

[x]  A/HRC/36/L.8, 29 September 2017