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Press briefing note on Yemen

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 6 August 2019
Subject: Casualties in Yemen

Over the past 10 days, we have documented a number of deeply worrying developments in Yemen that have had a serious impact on civilians across the country, including in Aden, Taiz, San’a, Sa’daa, Al Dhale and other areas. Armed groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and ISIS also appear to have intensified their activities in the country. 

Since 27 July, the UN Human Rights Office has verified 19 civilian deaths in Taiz, Sa’ada and Aden and 42 civilians injured. The majority of the civilian deaths resulted from an attack in the Al Thabet market area of Sa’ada Governorate on 29 July, when 14 civilians were killed and 26 injured. There are conflicting reports about which party to the conflict carried out the attacks. 

On 28 July, military forces and popular committees affiliated with the Houthis allegedly launched indiscriminate attacks in Al-Rawdhah neighbourhood in Taiz, killing one child and injuring three other civilians. This followed other similar attacks in previous days by Houthi-affiliated forces. There have also been reports of attacks hitting medical and educational facilities, including a 31 July attack damaging a hospital emergency department and ambulances in Taiz. 

In Aden and Abyan in the south, a series of attacks took place on 1 and 2 August against a police station and military camps. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on the police station. A ballistic missile reportedly launched by the Houthis was responsible for the attack on 1 August in Aden during a military parade, while armed groups affiliated with Al Qaeda reportedly attacked another military camp in Abyan governorate on 2 August.  In apparent retaliation for these attacks, the “security-belt” forces are reportedly carrying out and enabling retaliatory attacks against civilians from the northern parts of Yemen, who are being rounded up, assaulted, harassed and forcibly displaced to the areas bordering other governorates. We have received information from multiple sources about arbitrary arrests and detention, forced displacement, physical assaults and harassment as well as looting and vandalism by the security forces against hundreds of northerners. Reports suggest that security forces searched hotels and restaurants, stopping people, demanding their identification, and rounding up those hailing from the northern parts of Yemen. We remind parties to the conflict that such arrests and forced displacements breach international human rights and humanitarian law. Parties to a non-international armed conflict may not order the displacement of the civilian population, in whole or in part, for reasons related to the conflict, unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand. We are continuing to gather information about the number of people displaced and details of the violations they have been subjected to, but initial reports suggest hundreds have already been displaced. 

We also remain deeply concerned about the situation in Al Dhale, in southwest Yemen, since the escalation of military operations there in March 2019, including the use of landmines – which are by their very nature indiscriminate – as well as airstrikes, shelling and ground fighting. Since March, fighting between the warring parties has resulted in at least 26 civilians killed and 45 injured, although due to lack of access to the area, the figures are likely to be much higher than what we have been able to verify. The only water reserve in Al Dhale is reportedly under the control of the Houthis and many water pumps have stopped working or been damaged, thus cutting water supplies to parts of the population. 

We urge all parties to the conflict to seek to de-escalate the situation, and to ensure that any attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are meaningfully investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.orgor Ravina Shamdasani - 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org

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