On the ground – how we investigated US massacres of civilians in Yemen

Reprieve is an organization specialising in investigation of human rights abuses. We have tracked down ‘ghost prisoners’, exposed US secret torture prisons and uncovered vital evidence in death penalty cases. This has resulted in lives saved, torturers exposed and governments held to account. Within hours of the Yemen raids and drone strikes, we were on the ground, speaking to the victims and documenting the atrocities committed. Here’s how.

As news of the raid in Yakla first reached us, Reprieve investigators spoke extensively with witnesses on the ground. In the days immediately after the raid, Reprieve investigators based in Yemen travelled to Yakla to conduct interviews with the survivors and document the destruction with photographs.

“Our people are still shocked ‘til now. We did not understand what happened and why such a big crime was committed.”
Saleh Al-Ameri, a survivor of the Yakla raid

Reprieve investigators continue to communicate with and provide support to individuals affected by the raid in Yakla. Saleh Al-Ameri, the father of Fateem, told our investigators:

“While I was searching among the bodies, I found my daughter Fateem lying dead in the street with her child in her arms and covered with blood. I did not imagine that and I cannot forget those painful moments. I thought at first that Mohammad was also killed, but when we took him from his mother’s arms he cried. He was sleeping all the time in his dead mother’s arms.”

Following reports of the second raid in Al-Jubah, Reprieve investigators spoke with people from the affected community within hours of the raid.

“I was asleep in my house. I suddenly heard loud noise, shouting and shooting. I went out to see what happened. A heavy shooting via different types of weapons took place. I rushed out to help other people in the village. But I got hit and was lying on the ground for 2 hours. No one could rescue me until it was dawn”
Basheer Ali Saleh, 22 years old, resident of Jubah

Reprieve investigators travelled to Al-Jubah and spent days interviewing witnesses and survivors of the second raid. Our investigators on the ground continue to reach out to more families of victims to learn their stories. Where possible, our investigators have collected documentary evidence such as death certificates to corroborate witness testimony.

“Nasser was a kind man. He used to visit us and spend the evening hours with us. He told us stories about him and his camels – when he and his friends mounted the camels and travelled looking for materials and goods”
Othman Saleh Mohammed Saleh, 9 years old, resident of Jubah

All the information Reprieve has uncovered about both raids has been consistent with initial reports of civilian casualties. The Trump Administration currently reports lower civilian casualty numbers than Reprieve for the Yakla raid, and has yet to acknowledge any civilian casualties from the raid in Al-Jubah. However, it should be noted that US Central Command (USCENTCOM), the Defence Department’s command center with geographic responsibility for Yemen, only has two full time civilian casualty investigators. Survivors interviewed by Reprieve investigators have reported that no attempts to contact them have so far been made by US officials.

“The children are traumatized – my young child hides whenever he hears the sound of a plane”
Ahmed Salem Ali Al-Athal, who was seriously injured during the the Al-Jubah raid

We have also collected, cross-referenced, and analyzed data on strikes from publicly available news sources including reports from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, reports from official US sources, and comments from US officials.

Reprieve has conducted interviews with people in affected areas who have reported civilian casualties because of strikes. However, the lack of official transparency around strikes and the inaccessibility of some of the areas hit in Yemen render it difficult to draw a complete picture.

“I’d call on Trump to stop the drones as they cause fear to the innocent people. They have left a massive number of casualties, including women and children. Seeing the scenes of scattered bodies and blood everywhere is horrible.”
Meqdad Tuaiman, resident of Marib province, who has seen family members killed in US strikes

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