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Press briefing note on South Sudan, Yemen, Angola, Indonesia and Republic of Moldova

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location:  Geneva
Date: 12 May 2015
Subjects:  (1) South Sudan, (2)  Yemen, (3) Angola, (4) Indonesia and (5) Republic of Moldova

(1) South Sudan

We are deeply concerned about the escalation of fighting in the strategic, oil-rich Unity State in South Sudan. Whenever fighting intensifies between Government and opposition forces, the civilian population bears the brunt. Since 29 April, at least 28 towns and villages have been attacked and burned, with reports of killings, rape, abduction and looting of cattle and other property.

Thousands of civilians have fled the attacks – with at least 2,200 new arrivals seeking refuge at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)’s Protection of Civilians site in Bentiu as of 10 May, while others have fled or are in bushes between villages south of Nhialdiu and Koch, and Leer. Of 2,200 new arrivals, 26 percent are children under five and 65 percent are women and girls.

According to interviews with civilians who managed to flee, perpetrators of these atrocities are SPLA soldiers and armed youth. Mobilized youth are reportedly clad in civilian clothes wielding AK47s.

There are also alarming reports of attacks,, including abductions and sexual violence, by armed elements around the Protection of Civilians site.

Ahead of the rainy season, when people are planting crops, we urge absolute restraint by the parties to the conflict. Attacks on civilian lives and infrastructure amount to clear violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law and must be investigated.

(2) Yemen

The six days from 4 to 10 May have been the deadliest since fighting began in Yemen on 26 March, with a total of at least 182 civilians reported killed during that period – almost exactly half of them women and children (51 children and 41 women). The total number of civilians whose deaths have been verified by our staff in Yemen has now risen to 828 since 26 March (182 children and 91 women), with a further 1,511 injured. 

A significant proportion of the casualties over this most recent six-day period – around half – were reportedly caused by airstrikes, especially in Sa’ada Governorate. Other civilian deaths were caused by mortar fire and during fighting between the two sides in at least four different Governorates (Taiz, Abyan, Dhale and Aden), as well as by sniper fire. On one occasion, on 6 May, dozens of people fleeing fighting in Al-Tawahi District in Aden Governorate, took to boats aiming for Djibouti, when they were shelled by mortars apparently fired by members of the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis. The boats caught fire and there were casualties. Numerous civilian house were also struck, either by airstrikes or by ground fire. In addition, since the conflict began, at least 66 public buildings and civilian infrastructure are reported to have been partially or completely destroyed.

Given this alarming escalation, we welcome the announcement of a five-day humanitarian pause in Yemen, due to start today. This should enable desperately needed aid operations to be carried out, and it is essential that it is honoured by all sides to the conflict.  It should also be used as the basis for a more permanent cessation of hostilities.

We urge the coalition led by Saudi Arabia to enable fuel supplies to enter regularly into Yemen to facilitate humanitarian operations.

(3) Angola

There have been alarming reports in recent weeks of an alleged massacre in the central province of Huambo in Angola. We have been working to get more information on the incident but the facts remain unclear, with wildly differing accounts of the number of casualties.

According to the Government, nine police officers and 13 civilians were killed in a confrontation in Serra Sumé when police attempted to arrest the leader of a religious sect called “Luz du Mundo” (Light of the World). But other accounts of the incident claim that hundreds of followers of the sect were killed. There are even accounts suggesting the number may exceed 1000.

Recent editorials and reports in State media condemning the sect have been very worryingly virulent. We understand that some members of the sect and their families may have gone into hiding out of fear of further violence.

We understand that a Government inquiry has been launched into the incident, and we urge the Government to ensure that a truly meaningful, independent, thorough investigation is conducted with a view to ensuring accountability.

(4) Indonesia

We welcome the decision last weekend by the President of Indonesia to grant clemency to five Papuan political prisoners as well as his announcement that foreign journalists will now be allowed to visit Papua.

The High Commissioner is very much encouraged by these initial but significant steps.

He encourages the President to pursue his efforts toward reconciliation in Papua by reviewing the remaining cases of political prisoners with a view to their release.

(5) Republic of Moldova

We welcome the adoption on 7 May 2015 of a law strengthening the rights of persons with disabilities by the Moldovan Parliament.

For the first time in Moldova, the right to vote of people who have been deprived of legal capacity on the basis of their disability is legally recognized. The new law also allows persons under guardianship to appeal against decisions that deprive them of or restrict their legal capacity. It also establishes administrative sanctions for failing to make services or premises accessible for people with disabilities.

We praise the efforts from various sides in ensuring the adoption of this law, including in particular civil society organisations. We also encourage the Moldovan Government to pursue its ongoing reform with the aim of restoring the rights of people declared legally incapable on grounds of disability.


For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)  or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org).

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