Conflict in Yemen: Abyan's Darkest Hour

Onlookers gather at the scene of a suicide bombing in Abyan on August 5, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)
Report
December 3, 2012

Conflict in Yemen: Abyan's Darkest Hour

For around 10 months leading up to mid-2012, Abyan governorate in southern Yemen was racked by armed conflict between government forces and Ansar Al-Shari’a, an Islamist armed group affiliated to al-Qa’ida.
 
As is so often the case, civilians were the main casualties when both sides breached international human rights and humanitarian law in their battle for territory. From February 2011, Ansar al-Shari’a took control of Ja’ar and subsequently other major cities and towns in Abyan, including Zinjibar, and declared them Islamic emirates.
 
Among other things, it established its own courts, which led to punishments of at least one hand amputation and several executions. In May 2012, the government began a major military offensive to regain control of the governorate, which it achieved by mid-June.
 
This report, based mainly on a fact-finding visit to Yemen in June-July 2012, documents violations committed by Ansar Al-Shari’a when cities and towns in Abyan were under their control and during the subsequent armed conflict.
 
These violations included recklessly exposing civilians to harm during attacks; killing captured soldiers; abducting civilians, some of whom have never been seen again; and obstructing medical treatment for wounded people. The report also shows how government forces used disproportionate force during the conflict.
 
Amnesty international is calling on the Yemeni authorities to hold to account those responsible for all these abuses and to ensure that the victims receive full redress.