As Yemen warned ships in Red Sea to avoid Israel or face attack, I wonder if it has the right under international law to stop these ships from crossing the strait.

Is Yemen breaking an international law by doing this or is this within its right and sovereignty?

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    Yemen Hourhis warned, not Yemen - since Hourhis are not internationally recognized government, their declarations have nothing to do with the international law. Jan 2 at 6:58
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    Please, clarify what you mean by "international law." It's too vague as written. Any specific treaty or set of treaties that you have in mind?
    – wrod
    Jan 2 at 13:11
  • If a regime violates international laws and no one does anything to stop its illegal behavior, then anyone has the right to do anything to pressure the aggressor. Rules are for everyone.
    – C.F.G
    Jan 2 at 15:51
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    I'm wondering if international treaties like these still matter. It seems in the years since 9/11 the world has gradually moved to shit and piss on things like that.
    – Sixtyfive
    Jan 4 at 10:24

2 Answers 2


No. As Wikipedia puts it:

Under the purview of the article 37 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the legal concept of transit passage applies to Bab el-Mandeb, although Eritrea (unlike the rest of coastal countries) is not a party to the convention.

Yemen ratified the UNCLOS III treaty in 1987.

  • Can you please quote the part that references Bab El Mandeb from the treaty?
    – Mocas
    Jan 1 at 21:42
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    @Mocas, Kelvin already has cited the relevant section: Art 37 "This section applies to straits which are used for international navigation between one part of the high seas or an exclusive economic zone and another part of the high seas or an exclusive economic zone" That the Bab el Mandreb strait satisfies these condition is left as an exercise for the reader.
    – James K
    Jan 2 at 0:09
  • but the current Houthi government did not ratify the UNCLOS III right...or did they?
    – Faito Dayo
    Jan 2 at 17:19
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    @FaitoDayo Countries are bound by previous treaties even if they change of government. Any other way, there would be impossible to keep treaties as the governments change often. No matter who wins the next elections in, say, Italy, they will not have to ratify all current EU treaties (for example). So, there is no need for the Houthis to have ratified UNCLOS III for them to be bound by it, if they are acting as Yemen's government. A new government can withdraw from a treaty, but that is a different act.
    – SJuan76
    Jan 2 at 22:58
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    @FaitoDayo and if the Houthis withdraw from UNCLOS, that does not mean that the rest of the world will just say "ok, as you wish." Most likely, the rest of the world will understand that the convention is still in place (as it has been approved by most of the world), and that sending naval assets to protect passage is ok. And that now, such naval assets are not bound by the limitations of UNCLOS and can do way more than "innocent passage".
    – SJuan76
    Jan 2 at 23:00

The quotes article attributes the threat of attack to Yemen Houthis, which are a rebel group, rather than the official government of Yemen:

A senior official from Yemen’s Houthis has warned cargo ships in the Red Sea to avoid travelling towards Israel and the occupied territories, after the Iran-aligned group claimed an attack on a commercial tanker earlier in the day.

As Houthis do not represent Yemen under the international law, their declarations have no legal meaning. Any attack carried out by them is a criminal act by outlaws - since they exist and act outside of the international law.

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    Does international law determine which government is "official," or do Yemenis?
    – J Doe
    Jan 2 at 11:11
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    @JDoe one has to distinguish official, legitimate, and de facto governments. So yes, only the government recognized internationally can apply the international law. The fact that Houthis run the country (i.e., they are de facto government) doesn't mean that they are legitimate - i.e., have support of the population - they took power by force, not via elections. Jan 2 at 11:42
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    Who says elections are the standard of legitimacy? Does that mean Saudi Arabia’s monarchy is illegitimate?
    – J Doe
    Jan 2 at 11:54
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    @JDoe equivocation: legitimacy is whether the government accepted by population. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with legality, but in the context of my previous comment it should cause no ambiguity: Saudi government is internationally recognized, but it is difficult to say whether it has support of the majority of the Saudis. Jan 2 at 12:23
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    So the “official” government is the one recognized by other countries, and explicitly not the one recognized by the people governed? What sense does it make to disparage the effective de facto government as a “rebel group”?
    – J Doe
    Jan 2 at 17:33

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