In the midst of the so-called Arab Spring last year, fighters loyal Ansar al-Sharia, an umbrella group said to contain elements of al-Qaida, seized control of parts of Abyan province along Yemen's southern coast. During a time of political transition, Yemeni forces by June regained control of the province.
Amnesty International said Ansar al-Sharia was suspected of a wide range of violations, including enforced disappearances, summary executions and the obstruction of medical treatment. Yemeni forces are accused of using disproportionate force in the battle to control Abyan.
The rights group noted that the central government tended to neglect southern parts of the country given historic internal divisions in Yemen. It warned that while Ansar al-Sharia was driven out of the area, it's possible fighters would return and destabilize the region.
The current administration in Yemen is governed by a two-year power transfer agreement brokered late last year. Amnesty International called on both sides to respect international law, stating that "as is so often the case, civilians were the main casualties."