Ali Muhsin Al-Khabsha, a truck driver
from Bani Jormooz, claims that tribesman made "a promise not to allow any
military forces to move across our land, after we were outraged by the massacre of protesters on the 18th of
March in Sanaa in which 45 of our brothers were martyred." Another man, Fares
Ahmed Al-Dahrah, who lives a stone's throw from the base, said that after the
road was blocked, the water tanks in the village were repeatedly shot at and
drained by small arms fire as punishment for the community's disobedience.
A series of clashes between local tribesman -- armed with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades -- and the army ensued, eventually escalating into a small-scale war. Between June and September 2011, the army deployed tanks and Katyusha rockets against rebellious villagers -- and it was at this point that the minefields were sown.
The mountainous region of Bani Jormooz is of enormous strategic
importance to the government because it controls the airspace needed to land
planes in the capital city's only airport. Making matters worse, the area is
known for its fiercely independent tribes, lawlessness, and frequent incidences of
Regardless of the circumstances, accusations of mine use in 2011 mean that Yemen's government could garner the dubious accolade of being the first state signatory of the Mine Ban Treaty caught laying anti-personnel mines.
According to Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch's Arms Division, such a revelation would have "huge implications for the state of the treaty," which has been hailed as a rare example of a cohesive international treaty widely observed by its members.
"If true, this would be the most serious violation of the treaty ever, and the first time use by a state would have been confirmed. How the government of Yemen and other state parties react to this will be crucial to the long-term integrity of the treaty," says Goose.
The allegations against Yemen's government come just days before delegates from the 161 state signatories to the Mine Ban Treaty are scheduled to meet in Geneva to assess its implementation.
During a visit to Bani Jormooz in April, residents produced bags of mines recovered from the ground using rudimentary methods. They included four different types of anti-personnel mines, including large numbers of Hungarian manufactured GYATA-64 type mines, known to be among the most powerful anti-personnel devices ever manufactured. Locals also produced plastic East German PPM2 mines and two variations of Soviet wooden PMD-5 landmines -- all were manufactured before the end of the Cold War.
Yemen laid thousands of anti-personnel mines during its various periods of civil strife in the second half of the 20th century. But in 1997, the country signed the mine ban treaty, pledging to abandon the practice, and in 2002 it declared that it had destroyed its landmine stockpiles -- a claim which will likely now be disputed. Yemen legally retained 3,760 landmines for "training" purposes under the Mine Ban Treaty, but none of the mines seen in Bani Jormooz was of the types listed in the country's declared inventory.