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Yemen: “The killing of protesters must stop”

GENEVA (18 March 2011) – Three United Nations independent human rights experts* condemned the violent crackdown on protesters in Yemen, and urged the Government to stop the excessive use of force as a means to end ongoing protests.

On Friday, 33 people died and 145 were wounded, when armed men in plain clothes opened fire on protesters from positions on top of buildings overlooking Taghyeer Square in Sana’a, Yemen.

“Not only are attacks on peaceful demonstrators clearly prohibited, but also abiding by instructions to use excessive force constitutes a clear violation of International law,” said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns.

“I appeal to each and every security official, to stop violence against peaceful demonstrators,” Mr. Heyns stressed. “They must be warned that obedience to such orders does not protect them from being held criminally accountable.”

On his part, the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, expressed great alarm at the images showing security personnel using excessive force against protesters. “It is indeed a worrying trend when States use violence and excessive force to try to end long standing grievances which, ironically, also include accusations of serious human rights violation such as police brutality and torture,” Mr. Méndez underscored.

"The role of the Government is to serve the people,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue. “This means allowing them to express their grievances peacefully, listening to, and effectively addressing such concerns.”

“Instead, the Government of Yemen has killed, seriously injured, or arbitrarily detained peaceful protesters. Such flagrant human rights violations are utterly deplorable,” he said.

This is the latest in a series of comments by UN experts, who have been monitoring the protests in the North Africa and the Middle-East.

(*) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez; and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue.

For earlier statements by UN human rights experts, see:
Egypt: “Transition process should not overshadow accountability”: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10735&LangID=E
Governments must pay more attention to people’s voices - UN experts: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10703&LangID=E

OHCHR Country Page – Yemen: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/YEIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Tsatsu Dawson (Tel: +41 22 917 9711 / email: tdawson@ohchr.org) or write to sr-torture@ohchr.org.