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Press briefing notes on Burundi and Yemen

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Cécile Pouilly
Location: Geneva
Date: 4 August 2015

(1) Burundi

We strongly condemn the very serious attack against Pierre Claver Mbonhimpa, a well-respected human rights defender, who was badly injured after being shot four times, including in the neck, by two people on a motorbike yesterday evening, 3 August, in Bujumbura, while he was on his way home.

We are also deeply concerned at the brutal arrest and ill treatment, on 2 August, of the RFI and AFP local correspondent, Esdras Ndikumana, by agents belonging to the Service national de renseignement (SNR), the national intelligence agency. Mr Ndikumana was taking pictures on the crime site where General Adolphe Nshimirimana was killed on 2 August, when he was arrested and brutalized by SNR agents. They took him to their HQ in Bujumbura and reportedly subjected him to torture, claiming that he was a “journalist enemy”. Mr Ndikumana is currently under medical care, suffering from a broken finger and psychological trauma.

We call upon the Burundian authorities to launch prompt, transparent and thorough investigations into these very serious incidents and ensure that those responsible are held to account. Impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations must stop.

We also condemn the killing of general Nshimirimana and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. We condemn all acts of violence and call on all sides to show restraint to avoid any further escalation of violence.

We are also concerned about the large number of arbitrary arrests over the last few months. More than 600 people have been arrested and remain in detention without charge, some of them since April. Our team, which regularly visits places of detention, has also documented over 40 cases of torture and ill-treatment.

(2) Yemen

The civilian death toll in Yemen has risen to at least 1,916, with another 4,186 civilians wounded since the escalation of the armed conflict on 26 March. Over the past few weeks, there have been two particularly devastating attacks in residential areas. On 19 July, 95 civilians, including 29 children were killed and 198 injured in Aden in the Al Ghaleel Residential Area which is home to members of Al-Muhamasheen Community, a marginalized group in Yemen. The attacks were reportedly conducted by the Houthi Popular Committees using mortar shelling. Fourteen civilian homes also incurred extensive structural damage.

On 24 July, at least 73 civilians, including 11 children, were killed and 93 injured, when two residential compounds in Taiz were hit. The compounds housed the families of workers of Al Mokha Steam Power Plant. According to eyewitness the residential compounds were hit by nine missiles. We are working on verifying reports of the source of the attacks.

Also in Taiz, on 19 July, in violent clashes between members of Houthi Popular Committees and Local Popular Committees resulted in massive explosions at a storage facility housing gas canisters belonging to the Yemen Petroleum Company. This is particularly worrying given the only sporadic availability of cooking gas.

We are also deeply concerned about attacks against civilian infrastructure, including places of worship, hospitals and schools. We urge all parties, again, to ensure that they, at all times, distinguish between civilian and military targets, comply with the principle of proportionality when conducting military operations and take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimise, the impact of violence on civilians.


For more information, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 /
rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org).