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Press briefing notes on Yemen

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Liz Throssell
Location: Geneva 
Date: 18 June 2021

We are seriously concerned at the continuing impact of fighting on civilians and the targeting of civilian objects in Marib Governorate in Yemen, which Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah, have been trying to seize from the Yemeni Government for several months.

Among recent attacks, a civilian compound in Marib City - which includes the Governor’s office, the local branch of the Ministry of Planning, police headquarters, a mosque and a women’s prison - was hit on 10 June by what are believed to have been missiles, and possibly an explosive-laden drone, launched by Ansar Allah. Eight civilians, all police officers, were killed and 30 other civilians, including one woman whose house is near the compound, were injured. In addition, three ambulances responding to the first attacks were damaged by the drone explosion and two ambulance staff were injured.

A few days earlier, on 5 June, a petrol station reserved for military personnel and authorized civilians, which is located within a Government military base close to the city, was hit by a missile, which Ansar Allah said it had launched. According to the Government, the strike - on what it described as a civilian object - killed some 21 people, including civilians. 

In response to these claims, Ansar Allah asked for an independent investigation and offered to compensate any civilians subsequently found to have been harmed.

We are not in a position to identify each civilian death but have been able to verify that a five-year-old girl and a boy aged 13, who were in cars with their relatives at the location, were among those killed. On Wednesday night, the same base was again struck by missiles but there were no casualties or damage.

Hostilities and violence in other parts of Yemen also continue to claim civilian victims. On 11 June, a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in the vicinity of a group of soldiers at a market in the southern coastal city of Zinjibar, in Abyan Governorate, some 60km east of Aden. The soldiers bore the brunt of the blast, with seven killed and 22 injured, but three civilians were also injured.

Cross-border attacks by Ansar Allah into the territory of Saudi Arabia have also been continuing, although with less intensity in recent weeks. To date, since January, Ansar Allah has launched some 128 drone strikes and 31 ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia. While the majority of the targets have been of a military nature, civilian infrastructure, including civilian airports and industrial facilities, have been hit.

On Sunday 13 June, a drone strike, allegedly launched by Ansar Allah, hit a girls’ school in the governorate of Dhahran al-Janub, in the Saudi border region of Asir. Mobile phone video and photos appear to show damage to the roof, and many broken windows. No casualties were reported. 

We call on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction, which prohibits the targeting of civilians and civilian objects and infrastructure, as well as the principles of proportionality and precautions in attack.

Parties to the conflict must also take all feasible precautions to protect civilians under their control from the effects of attacks. This includes the obligation to avoid locating military objectives in populated areas and to remove civilians from the vicinity of such objects, to the extent feasible.

All parties to the conflict should ensure that any attacks resulting in the death of civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure are meaningfully investigated. Victims of arbitrary killings, including those amounting to war crimes, have a right to justice, and perpetrators of such acts, regardless of affiliation, must be duly held to account. 

We urge all parties to the conflict to go back to the negotiating table and agree on a nationwide ceasefire. As has been repeated time and again, only a political solution can end this conflict.

Given the suffering of Yemeni civilians, parties to the conflict must avoid politicizing humanitarian assistance and allow unimpeded imports of goods so badly needed by civilians.

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / ethrossell@ohchr.org or
Rupert Colville + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org or
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466mhurtado@ohchr.org

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