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Press briefing note on Yemen and Honduras

Arabic version

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location:  Geneva
Date:  4 March 2016
Subjects:     1) Yemen & 2) Honduras

1)   Yemen

Civilian casualties continue to mount in Yemen. During February, a total of at least 168 civilians were killed and 193 injured, around two-thirds of them by Coalition airstrikes.

In the country as a whole, 117 civilians were killed and another 129 wounded as a result of airstrikes, with the largest number of casualties (99) attributed to airstrikes hitting the capital, Sana’a.  In November last year, there was a marked decrease in airstrike casualties, but since then they have risen again sharply, with the number killed almost doubling between January and February. The number of civilian casualties recorded last month was the highest since September.

In all, since 26 March 2015, we have documented a total of 3,081 civilians killed and 5,733 injured. These figures do not include casualties among the fighters on either side. They refer solely to reported civilian casualties.

In the worst single incident, on 27 February, at least 39 civilians, including nine children, were killed, and another 33 injured, by an airstrike around midday on the Khaleq market in a north-eastern district of Sana’a. This is the highest death toll resulting from a single airstrike since 41 people were killed in another market in Sa’ada five months ago.

Fighting and indiscriminate shelling by Members of the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis and allied army units loyal to former president Saleh resulted in an additional 49 civilian casualties during February, mostly in Taizz, Ibb and Al Jawf.

In Taizz City, indiscriminate shelling attributed to members of the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis and forces loyal to former President Saleh killed, injured or endangered civilians on several occasions. On 17 February, a missile believed to have been fired by them killed three young girls in their home and injured their mother in a residential neighbourhood called Sinah which had seen no confrontation and contained no apparent military targets.

Civilian infrastructure continued to be destroyed or damaged throughout February, with both parties targeting protected civilian sites. On 3 February, 14 civilians were killed and 53 injured, including children, after airstrikes reportedly hit a cement factory in Amran. In the same incident, 11 houses and shops were damaged and 11 vehicles destroyed, including an ambulance and a police car.

There have also been worrying allegations – which we are still working to verify -- that Coalition forces dropped cluster bombs on a mountainous area to the south of the Amran cement factory, where a military unit loyal to the Houthis appears to have been the target.

Journalists continue to suffer, with another one killed on 16 February in Taizz Governorate by a sniper who appeared to be shooting from an area under the control of members of the Popular Committees Affiliated with the Houthis. Two other journalists were detained in February by men in military uniforms in vehicles belonging to the General Security which is controlled by the Houthis.

In addition, on 14 February in Hadramaut Governorate, armed men believed to belong to Ansar Al-Shariah (an Al Qaeda offshoot) blew up a revered historical monument, said to be almost 500 years old, called Al-Sheikh Ismail.

We take note of the 31 January statement by the Spokesman of the Coalition Forces concerning the establishment of a multi-national team formed by the Command of the Coalition Forces to evaluate the military targeting mechanisms and incidents taking place in civilian areas. The Command of the Coalition Forces must ensure that any investigation is in accordance with international standards, including on independence and impartiality.

During the ongoing session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner will present an oral update on the human rights situation of Yemen, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 30/18 adopted at the end of the 30th session in September.

2) Honduras

We condemn the assassination yesterday, Thursday 3 March, of the well-known indigenous rights defender, Berta Cáceres, in Honduras.

Ms Cáceres was the coordinator the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras and the winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, notably for the key role she played in the struggle against a controversial dam project. 

According to local sources, several unknown assailants broke at night into her brother's home in the city of La Esperanza, in the western province of Intibuca, and killed her.

We welcome the announcement that the police have already started an investigation. However, we are also disturbed by the fact Ms. Cáceres was assassinated despite the fact that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had asked the Honduran authorities to provide her with special protection, given the numerous threats she had received.


For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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