Yemen: Houthis should urgently open Taizz roads

(Beirut) – Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah, should immediately open vital roads in and around Taizz, Yemen’s third-largest city, and restore freedom of movement for all civilians in order to prevent further deterioration of the already serious humanitarian crisis in Taizz, sixteen human rights groups said today.

The main roads in and out of the town of Taizz have been closed since 2015 by Houthi forces, severely restricting the freedom of movement of civilians and hampering the movement of essential goods, medicine and humanitarian access to residents of the town.

“The Houthi restrictions have forced civilians onto dangerous and poorly maintained mountain roads which are the only link between the beleaguered population of Taizz city and the rest of the world,” said Michael Page, deputy director for the Middle East. East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch. “Opening up the main roads would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of a population that has been in near total isolation for seven years.”

Taizz lies between the capital, Sanaa, controlled by the de facto Houthi authorities, and the port city of Aden. Houthi forces have surrounded Taizz since 2015, isolating the town and blocking access to all major roads connecting Taizz to the rest of the country, while government-backed forces control the town center. The humanitarian crisis in Taizz is particularly serious.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that “the severity of food and water needs is dangerously acute in Taizz”.

Houthi forces must ensure that all civilians can safely leave any area of ​​potential danger and that any restrictions on freedom of movement are only temporary and for reasons of imperative military necessity, given the ongoing truce. , the groups said. The Houthis must ensure the free movement and safety of all humanitarian personnel and facilitate the delivery of food, medical supplies and other essential items and services to civilians in the city and throughout the governorate.

There has been little progress in opening the roads, despite UN efforts. The UN announced a two-month truce, starting April 2, 2022, which included a provision that his special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, “invite the parties to a meeting to agree on the opening of roads in Taiz and other governorates to facilitate the movement of civilians, men, women and children “.

Following negotiations in Amman on July 3, the Office of the Special Envoy share plans for a gradual reopening of roads in Taizz to help alleviate the suffering of civilians. But the Houthi authorities rejected the proposal, prompting rare critical by the EU delegation to Yemen, who said that “the EU deeply regrets the Houthis’ rejection of the latest proposal”.

The Houthis have blocked access to the main roads leading northeast, to the Hawban region, as well as the roads leading north and northwest, connecting the city of Taizz to the rest of Yemen. A trip from the city of Taizz to the Hawban region would take approximately 10 or 15 minutes before 2015, but now takes 6-8 hours. To leave the city of Taizz, the inhabitants were strength to take the mountainous, unpaved road to al-Aqrodh, a detour of more than 60 kilometers that goes around the city. Al-Aqrodh is winding and narrow, with sharp bends and numerous government and Houthi checkpoints.

A resident of the city of Taizz told the groups: “There are daily casualties and accidents due to the state of the road; it is full of suffering and loss every day.

The main roads from Aden to Taizz are also closed by the Houthis, forcing civilians to take the notoriously treacherous route from Haigat Al-Abd to Aden. “Some call it the road of death,” the Taizz town resident told the groups. “It’s full of holes and not in good condition, but people don’t have a substitute.” The Haigat al-Abd road is narrow and unpaved, twist through steep mountainous terrain. These conditions make it extremely difficult for large trucks, other trucks and buses, which carry vital goods and passengers, to navigate tight bends and steep crossings. without accidents.

Residents of rural areas in Taizz Governorate have long traveled to Taizz City for essential health care, such as dialysis or chemotherapy. Prior to the siege of the city by Houthi forces, these routes were manageable. Today, the trips that previously one hour can now take up to eight hours, forcing sick patients to suffer unnecessarily for hours on rugged mountain roads.

During the rainy season, the danger of these alternative mountain routes increase considerably because unpaved dirt roads easily flood and fill with debris.

Severe road closures inhibit the efficient movement of food, medicationsand other essential goods in and out of the governorate.

Houthi authorities should immediately ensure sustainable and safe access for all Yemeni civilians through major arteries leading to and from the town of Taizz, the groups said.

Diego Zorrilla, UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, recently Told AFP that “the situation in Taiz is particularly serious”. International agencies and humanitarian organizations have also had difficulty getting food and medicine to the civilian population.

On July 26, hundreds of Yemenis took to the streets of Taizz to demonstration the Houthi authorities’ refusal to open the main roads.

On August 2, Grundberg, the UN special envoy, announced the second two-month renewal of the truce under the aegis of the UN, vowing to intensify its efforts to reach “an extended truce agreement” which would include reaching an agreement on “the opening of the roads in Taiz “.

Despite these efforts, progress on opening roads remains elusive.

Human rights groups have documented that Houthi forces restricted food and medical supplies for civilians in Taizz between December 2015 and January 2016. Houthi guards at checkpoints prevented civilians from bringing essential items such as fruits, vegetables, cooking gas, vaccination doses, dialysis treatment packets, and oxygen cylinders, and illegally confiscated some of these items.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a party, guarantees the right to freedom of movement. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees that “everyone has the right to freedom of movement and to reside within the frontiers of every State”. International humanitarian law requires parties to a conflict to allow and facilitate the rapid and unhindered passage of impartial humanitarian assistance to civilians in need. They must allow civilians in besieged areas to leave and they must guarantee the freedom of movement of authorized humanitarian relief personnel.

“The seat of Taizz is now just a card on the negotiating table. Civilians pay a high price to exercise their right to movement and access basic needs such as food, water and basic materials,” said Radhya Al-Mutwakel, President of Mwatana for Human Rights. “The Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group should immediately end undue movement restrictions by opening main roads and allowing all Yemeni civilians to travel freely throughout their country.

Signatories:

  1. Association of Abductee Mothers
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Bridges for Yemen
  4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  5. Campaign Against the Arms Trade
  6. Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect
  7. Human Rights Watch
  8. Musaala Organization for Human Rights
  9. Mwatana for human rights
  10. PAX for peace
  11. Middle East Democracy Project (POMED)
  12. SAM Organization for Rights and Freedoms
  13. Sheba Youth Foundation – مؤسسة شباب سبأ للتنميه
  14. A safer world
  15. The Peace Track Initiative – https://www.peacetrackinitiative.org
  16. Monitor human rights رصد لحقوق الإنسان

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