GENEVA (13 September 2011) – A report published Tuesday by a UN human rights assessment mission to Yemen calls for immediate action to protect civilians, respect the right to peaceful demonstration and to address the “deteriorating humanitarian situation” in the country.
The report by the UN human rights office also stresses the need for “international, independent and impartial investigations” into allegations of human rights abuses related to the peaceful protest movement in Yemen since the beginning of this year.
A delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Aden, Sana’a and Ta’izz between 28 June and 6 July this year. The team met many key officials, including the Vice-President, leaders of political parties and members of Parliament as well as NGO representatives, lawyers, journalists, doctors, human rights defenders, victims of violations and their relatives.
“The Mission observed an overall situation where many Yemenis peacefully calling for greater freedoms, an end to corruption and respect for rule of law were met with excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by the state,” the report states. “Hundreds have been killed and thousands have suffered injuries including loss of limbs.”
The assessment team witnessed the deployment of tanks in Ta’izz and shelling of the city at night. It also observed signs of collective punishment, causing severe hardship to the civilian population, including disruption of access to electricity, fuel and water.
The report notes that “both the Government and some of its armed opponents have sought to present themselves as protectors of the civilian population and to blame the other for the suffering and hardship that has been brought upon them. All sides may be guilty of using and abusing peaceful protesters and the civilian population in this increasingly violent power struggle.” It calls on armed opponents claiming to protect the protestors to remove all weapons from public areas of peaceful demonstration.
The report notes credible allegations of serious human rights violations committed by the Government security forces, including the killing of civilians, excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, and torture and ill treatment. In a number of instances, Government security forces prevented wounded demonstrators from accessing hospitals or turned away doctors or ambulances. There were also reports that security forces shot at ambulances on more than one occasion. The report concludes that security forces were not properly trained or equipped to fulfill their functions in compliance with Yemen’s obligations under international human rights law.
While recognizing that the State has a duty to maintain law and order and to use appropriate and proportional means to counter groups seeking to overthrow the Government through violent means, the Mission stressed that this could not be a pretext for the hasty resort to lethal force to quell peaceful street demonstrations. The report calls for immediate action to end attacks against civilians, in full compliance with Yemen’s obligations under international human rights law.
The Mission received many reports of children having been subjected to the same extreme violence as adults, including killings, injury, suffocation from gas, torture, arbitrary detention, and recruitment by security forces. Children have been seen in uniform patrolling the streets, serving at Government checkpoints and involved in searching protestors.
“The Government must undertake immediate measures to end the use and recruitment of children, demobilize those who have already been recruited and cooperate with the United Nations for their integration into their communities,” the report states. “All prisoners detained for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression and assembly must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
In many cases, victims, their family members and lawyers told the assessment team that they did not trust the country’s judicial institutions and refrained from filing complaints or cooperating with investigators.
“Given the lack of confidence in the judiciary to conduct impartial investigations into human rights abuses related to the peaceful protest movement, there is a need for international, independent and impartial investigations to take place,” the report states.
The full report of the OHCHR Assessment Mission to Yemen is available on: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/YE/YemenAssessmentMissionReport.pdf
Yemen Report: the investigation – Watch the video: http://youtu.be/lQ64ur7UxPE
OHCHR Country Page – Yemen: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/YEIndex.aspx
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