Tracking possible war crimes in Yemen

By Kent R. Kroeger (December 19, 2018)

Stringer, AFP | Yemenis dig graves for children killed when their bus was hit during a Saudi-led coalition air strike that targeted the Dahyan market the previous day in the Huthi rebels’ stronghold province of Saada on August 10, 2018
Source: European Council on Foreign Relations

The civilian toll in Yemen (as best we can discern)

Any attempt to measure civilian deaths and casualties resulting from the civil war is fraught with difficult and likely to be imperfect. Nonetheless, growing international attention to the conflict is bringing with it conscientious efforts to measure its social costs.

What is a war crime?

The body of statutes often used to define a war crime are the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Convention on land warfare of 1907 (concerning the Laws and Customs of War), and the 1998 International Criminal Court Statute.

The Yemen Data Project

The Yemen Data Project (YDP) is an independent, non-profit data collection project aimed at increasing the transparency over the conduct of the Yemen civil war.

Characteristics of coalition attacks on Yemen

Many years ago I taught an introductory international politics class at The University of Iowa and one of its obligatory class segments covered the “laws of war.” As I always allocated the last 15 minutes of the class to an open discussion about the lecture topic of the day, this particular segment elicited strong opinions among students. Even the most marginal students seemed to have an opinion about how wars the acceptable rules of war.

Two hypotheses about civilian targeting in the Yemen civil war

With over 18,900 military incidents between March 2015 and November 2018 in their database, the YDP offers the best open-source information available on the Yemen conflict. Along with the date and the time of day (daypart) of the incident, the YDP database also includes location and summary target information.

Characteristics of coalition attacks on Yemen

Before testing our two hypothesis, let us describe the YDP data more generally.

Are Yemeni civilians being targeted by the coalition?

At this point, a brief understanding of what was included (and not included) in the YDP’s definition of a civilian target is helpful. Almost 75 percent of civilian targets in the YDP database were residential areas, followed by vehicles/buses (12%) and market places (9%). There were even 51 attacks on mosques, representing two percent of all attacks on civilian targets.

Source: Yemen Data Project (Data covers period from March 2015 to November 2018)

Final thoughts and next steps

What is most striking in the YDP data is the unrelenting consistency of the coalition’s operational tempo against Yemen. The bombers take very few days off.

I am a survey and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion (You can contact me at: kroeger98@yahoo.com)

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