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Press briefing note on Yemen and Nicaragua

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location: Geneva
Date: 24 April 2018
Subject: (1) Yemen & (2) Nicaragua

(1) Yemen

In Yemen, at least 45 people, reportedly all civilians, have been killed by airstrikes in three separate incidents over the past four days. The dead include women and children. Many others were injured.

Last Friday, 20 April, at around 11:00 am, a Saudi-led Coalition airstrike killed all the passengers in a civilian vehicle travelling near Al-Areish village in the Mawza district of Taizz governorate. A total of 21 civilians including five children are reported to have died in this attack. Eyewitness told our staff in Yemen, that the victims were returning to their home on a small rural road, when the airstrike destroyed their vehicle. The bodies of the victims were so badly burned and mutilated that they have been hard to identify. Local inhabitants insisted to our staff that, at the time of the attack, there were no military objects in the vicinity of the targeted area.

Two days later, on Sunday 22 April, airstrikes caused a large number of civilian casualties in two separate incident. 

In the most devastating of these, at around 20:30-21:00 hrs, during a wedding ceremony in the Bani Qa'is district of Hajjah governorate, preliminary inquiries by our staff suggest that two airstrikes killed at least 19 civilians and injured some 50 others, of whom more than half were children. According to information received by UN human rights staff in Yemen, the two Coalition airstrikes destroyed a wedding tent in the grounds of a civilian house in Al-Raqah village, while the victims were celebrating the marriage of their relatives. Local inhabitants informed our staff that the victims do not have any political affiliation – not to say that that would have made the wedding party a legitimate target. They also claimed there were no military objectives in the vicinity of the targeted area at the time of the attack.

Our office is still working on gathering more information on the names, ages and gender of the civilians killed and injured during this deplorable incident. Initial information indicates that 29 children were among the 50 or more people injured in the attack. The final toll of deaths and injuries during this incident may be higher.

Earlier on Sunday, at around 14:00, in the Midi district of Hajjah governorate, a Coalition airstrike reportedly hit a civilian house, killing all five members of a single family, including three children and one woman. Our staff were informed that the victims were having lunch inside their house, in an area called Al-Hadwariah, when it received a direct hit from a missile. The family’s neighbours told UN human rights staff that they had seen warplanes in the area just before the incident.

We note that the members of the Coalition are conducting an after-action review of the attack on the wedding party, but urge them to fully investigate all these latest deadly attacks independently, thoroughly and transparently. Those found to be responsible should be held accountable and reparations or remedy provided to the victims. We also urge them, once again, to ensure that all their forces observe the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.

We would also like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and colleagues of the ICRC staff member shot dead in his vehicle on Saturday by an unidentified gunman, or gunmen, in the Sabir Al Mawadim district of Taizz governorate.

A total of more than 6,300 civilians have been killed, and 9,900 injured since the start of the conflict in March 2015, as verified by the UN human rights office in Yemen. The total number of casualties, including fighters and unverified cases, is likely much higher.

(2) Nicaragua

We have received reliable reports that at least 25 people were killed in Nicaragua during the nationwide protests against planned social security reforms. We are particularly concerned that a number of these deaths may amount to unlawful killings.

We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to ensure that there are prompt, thorough, independent and transparent investigations into these deaths.  It is essential that all allegations of excessive use of force by police and other security forces are effectively investigated to ensure those responsible are held to account. We are also concerned at reports that dozens of people have been injured or detained over the past few days.

There should also be investigations into acts of violence, including looting, allegedly committed during the protests.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has announced a halt to the planned reforms.  However, we understand that further demonstrations are likely. 

We reiterate the call we made on Friday for the Nicaraguan State to abide by its international obligations to ensure that people, including human rights defenders who have been monitoring developments, are able to freely exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and association.  We also call for an end to attacks on journalists and media organisations that have been trying to cover the protests. We also urge demonstrators to protest peacefully.

We echo the Secretary General’s call for dialogue, and we will continue to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua.


For media requests, please contact Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466/ ethrossell@ohchr.org) or Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org)

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.

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