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Press briefing note on Yemen, Syria and Somalia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Cécile Pouilly
Location:       Geneva
Date:  31 March 2015
Subjects:      (1) Yemen
                    (2) Syria
                    (3) Somalia


(1) Yemen

A press release will be issued shortly on the fast deteriorating human rights situation in Yemen, with dozens of civilians killed over the past days.

We are shocked by Monday’s airstrike against the Al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced people in Harad, in the north of Yemen. There are different accounts as to how many people were killed in the airstrike, but UN human rights staff in Yemen have verified at least 19 fatalities, with at least 35 others injured including 11 children.

In Dhale, the 33rd armoured division and Houthis-affiliated brigades reportedly attacked three hospitals, causing an unknown number of casualties.

Heavy fighting has also been reported in the streets of Aden, resulting in casualties.

Since 27 March, at least 93 civilians have been killed and 364 injured in Sanaá, Sa'da, Dhale, Hudayda and Lahj.

Private homes, hospitals, education facilities and infrastructure in several locations have been destroyed. Civilian airports as well as electricity supplies have also been targeted by airstrikes in Sa’da, Sanaá and Hudayda.

Hundreds of people are reported to have fled their homes in Sana’a, Sa’sa and Dhale and are now displaced.

We condemn all attacks on hospitals and call on all sides to protect civilians from harm, and to fully respect international human rights law and humanitarian law.

(2) Syria

We are deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Idleb, in north west Syria, after the city fell under the control of a coalition of anti-government armed groups last Saturday, 28 March.

On Sunday, Syrian Government airplanes reportedly shelled a Red Crescent hospital in Idleb city, killing at least 15 civilians. Further attacks by the Syrian Air Force have been reported on a number of towns and villages in the governorate of Idleb, including Sarmin, Mantaf and Nayrab. Civilian casualties resulting from these attacks have been reported but we do not have a confirmed number of dead and injured at this point.

We have received information about the execution of at least 15 detainees held at a detention centre of the Military Intelligence Branch by retreating Government forces on Sunday.

Witnesses report that hundreds of families are on the move seeking refuge in villages along the border with Turkey. The armed opposition groups now controlling Idleb have also reportedly been evacuating the civilian population from residential areas for fear of further government attacks.

We are also deeply worried about threats by armed opposition leaders to attack the predominantly Shia villages of Al-Fu’ah and Kafraya, north east of Idleb city, in retaliation for the Government’s attacks on Idleb. The two villages are reportedly being besieged by opposition groups and there is a clear risk that their Shia populations will suffer reprisals.

We remind all parties to the conflict of their responsibilities under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including their obligation to protect civilians.

(3) Somalia

We strongly condemn the terrorist attack on the Maka al Mukarama Hotel in Mogadishu, on 27 March, resulting in the death of at least 18 people, including Ambassador Yusuf Mohamed Ismail “Bari Bari,” who was Somalia’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva and played a crucial role in advancing human rights in Somalia.

His tragic death came only a day after a Human Rights Council resolution creating the mandate of an Independent Expert on the enjoyment of the rights of persons with albinism was adopted by consensus – a development due in no small part to Ambassador Bari Bari, who was the first diplomat to push for the plight of persons with albinism to be placed on the agenda of the Human Rights Council.

We send our condolences to his family and the families of all the victims caught up in Friday’s attack.


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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