GENEVA (24 March 2017) – Two years and more than 13,000 civilian casualties later, the conflict in Yemen continues to rage, with an intensification in hostilities over the past three months that has exacerbated the entirely man-made catastrophe, with children starving and refugees and fishermen bombed, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said today.
Sunday, 26 March, will mark two years since the escalation of the current conflict in Yemen. Since 26 March 2015, at least 4,773 civilians have been killed and another 8,272 injured by the violence – a total of 13,045 civilian casualties. These figures reflect only those deaths and injuries that the UN Human Rights Office has managed to corroborate and confirm to be civilians. The actual death toll is certainly considerably higher. Another 21 million Yemenis – 82 per cent of the population – are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Over the past month alone, 106 civilians have been killed, mostly by air strikes and shelling by Coalition war ships. The worst incident occurred near Al Hudaydah on 16 March, when 32 Somali refugees and one Yemeni civilian were killed, with another 10 Somali refugees reportedly missing, feared dead. Twenty-nine Somali refugees, including six children, were injured, some severely. According to survivors’ accounts, the vessel carrying the refugees across the Red Sea was hit by shelling from a Coalition warship, without any warning, followed by shooting from an Apache helicopter overhead.
The UN Human Rights Office has also documented a number of incidents where fishermen’s boats were hit, as well as airstrikes that struck four trucks carrying food items, and an airstrike at a marketplace, among others. On 10 March, at least 18 civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike that hit a Qat market in Al Khawkhah district in Al Hudaydah Governorate. On 15 March, an Apache helicopter reportedly shot at a fishing boat off the coast of Al Hudaydah, killing two fishermen and injuring five others, reportedly without warning. Another boat in the same region was hit by a missile, reportedly fired from a Coalition warship, resulting in the deaths of five fishermen. The same day, five other fishermen were killed in a missile attack near the coast of Ad Durayhimi district of Al Hudaydah Governorate. On 16 March, another 10 fishermen were reported missing. Their boat was found burned on the northern side of Al Hudaydah city. Search efforts continue for the fishermen.
The Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis and former President Saleh have continued to encircle densely populated areas in Taizz Governorate, preventing civilians from leaving and restricting humanitarian access to Taizz city. The UN Human Rights Office has heard accounts from people inside Taizz city of desperate shortages of food, water and milk for infants. Children, pregnant women and elderly people, especially those with chronic illnesses, are at particular risk and directly endangered by the lack of medicines. On 6 March, members of the Popular Committees reportedly shelled the Al Shanini market in al-Modhafer District in Taizz, causing one civilian death and injuring three civilians. There did not appear to be any potential military targets in the area at the time of the attack and eyewitnesses indicated that the attack occurred without warning.
“The violent deaths of refugees fleeing yet another war, of fishermen, of families in marketplaces – this is what the conflict in Yemen looks like two years after it began…utterly terrible, with little apparent regard for civilian lives and infrastructure,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “The fighting in Al Hudaydah has left thousands of civilians trapped – as was the case in Al Mokha in February – and has already compromised badly-needed deliveries of humanitarian assistance. Two years of wanton violence and bloodshed, thousands of deaths and millions of people desperate for their basic rights to food, water, health and security – enough is enough. I urge all parties to the conflict, and those with influence, to work urgently towards a full ceasefire to bring this disastrous conflict to an end, and to facilitate rather than block the delivery of humanitarian assistance.”
The UN Human Rights Office continues to provide support to the Yemeni National Commission, as mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. High Commissioner Zeid however stressed the need for an international, independent investigative body to look into the hundreds of reports of serious violations in Yemen. “The international community cannot allow those responsible for thousands of civilian deaths to continue to enjoy full impunity.”
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