A Blow to Hopes for Peace in Yemen


Eight years into a brutal war, the people of Yemen are still suffering through the worst humanitarian crisis on earth. The war has resulted in over 370,000 deaths, more than half of which are linked to indirect causes such as hunger and preventable diseases. Around 4 million people have been displaced, and more than 75 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

A UN-brokered ceasefire between the internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels took effect in April 2022, but the warring parties failed to reach an agreement to extend the truce before it expired on October 2. Under the truce agreement, all offensive military ground, aerial, and naval operations, including cross-border attacks, should cease. Other provisions of the ceasefire included reopening blockaded roads in Taiz and other governorates to facilitate the movement of civilians, reopening the Sanaa international airport to commercial flights,  and allowing fuel ships into the main Red Sea port of Hodeidah.

Overall, the truce reduced the intensity of fighting. However, all parties continued to commit human rights abuses in spite of it. The southwestern city of Taiz, in particular, remains among the hardest hit. In contravention of the ceasefire’s terms, roads in and out of Taiz continued to be blockaded, as they have been since 2015, making it essentially a trapped city. Tens of thousands of its once 600,000 residents have fled, forcibly displaced. Those who remain lack very basic necessities, including adequate food, water, medicine, and fuel; basic services, such as health care and education; employment; and the freedom of movement.

Field monitors working with the National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations to Human Rights, and representing all 22 governorates in Yemen, gathered in Beirut this past September for an ICTJ-led training on transitional justice. Many expressed concerns about ongoing human rights abuses despite the truce. According to Raghda Almaqtari, a field monitor and lawyer who has been documenting human rights violations in Taiz since 2016, “When the truce began last April, people in Taiz were very hopeful that this truce would reduce their sufferings and bring peace to Yemen. However, the truce has only served the warring parties. Nothing changed for Taiz except the increasing hardships and the number of civilian casualties especially among women and children. There is no house in Taiz without a story of pain, pain that never ends.” About the failure to extend the truce, Almaqtari said, “Despite the statements from the UN envoy that negotiations to extend the ceasefire were still ongoing, intense clashes broke out in eastern and western Taiz within the first hours after the truce ended. Unfortunately, whether the truce is renewed or not, nothing will change for the people of Taiz.”

The continued human rights violations and renewed fighting demonstrate the lack of confidence between the warring parties and their unwillingness to engage in fruitful negotiations. What Yemen needs is not just a temporary pause in fighting, which leaves people living in constant fear that violence might erupt at any time. Yemen needs a sustainable peace agreement that addresses the grave humanitarian situation, which has been overlooked by the international community for years, and a comprehensive and inclusive Yemeni-led political process that meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people.


PHOTO: Children stand outside a house in Taiz that was bombed. Field monitors from Yemen's National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations to Human Rights (NCIAVHR) visited Taiz in 2021 to inspect and document the violations. (NCIAVHR)