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Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing note on Yemen and destruction of Mosul mosque

Yemen, Mosul mosque

23 June 2017

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location:   Geneva
Date:  23 June 2017
Subject: (1) Yemen and  (2) Mosul mosque and minaret

(1) Yemen

The UN Human Rights Office in Yemen continues to document reports of civilian casualties as a result of the conflict. Over the past month, we have been able to verify a total of 49 civilian deaths.

Between 21 May and 6 June, 19 civilians were killed in Taizz. Witnesses interviewed by the UN Human Rights Office said the victims were hit by shelling attacks by the Popular committees affiliated with the Houthis. Twelves shelling incidents reportedly hit 10 civilian neighbourhoods and two markets. Also on 21 May, seven civilians were killed reportedly as a result of mortar attacks from areas controlled by fighters affiliated with Popular Resistance Committees and Army Units loyal to President Hadi.

We have also documented the deaths of at least 23 civilians on 17 June as a result of an airstrike, helicopter attack and shelling on a house and nearby market area located just a few hundred metres from the Yemen-Saudi border in Shada District in Sa’ada Governorate.

According to information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office, the airstrike hit a house on the western side of the marketplace in the village of Moshnaq at about 12:30 pm on Saturday. Local people told our Yemen team that the house is used by Qat smugglers as a staging post where they wait for night-time when they cross into Saudi Arabia and that some 25 people were believed to be in the house at the time of the strike. Residents said those who survived the airstrike tried to flee the building but came under machinegun attack from helicopters that flew over the area some 10 minutes after the airstrike. Rescuers from neighbouring villages were unable to reach the market for an hour as shelling reportedly continued.

Interviewees told our Yemen team that there was no prior warning of the attack.

During the more than two years since the conflict in Yemen began, marketplaces have been struck a number of times, causing loss of civilian life.

We recall that indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks or attacks targeting civilian objects such as markets are prohibited under international humanitarian law. We remind all parties to the conflict of their obligation to ensure full respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law. All incidents resulting in civilian casualties, including the attack on the house in Shada District, must be thoroughly investigated to ensure accountability when breaches of international law have been found to have taken place.

The outbreak of cholera has affected eight prisons and detention centres in six governorates. Some 50 prisoners have contracted cholera and there are 72 other suspected cases. In the best of circumstances, prisoners are among the most vulnerable members of society. In the Yemeni context, this is even more so. 

Since March 2015, the UN Human Rights Office has recorded a total of 13,504 civilian casualties, including 4,971 killed and 8,533 injured.

(2) Mosul mosque and minaret

We condemn the destruction of the al-Nuri Mosque and the Hadba Minaret in the Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday 21st  June.  Reports indicate that it was blown up deliberately by ISIL as Iraqi security forces were approaching.

This destruction is the latest in a long line of such horrendous acts by ISIL, which has targeted landmark religious sites, including churches, mosques, shrines, tombs and graves.

Such intentional destruction is an attack on the religious and cultural heritage of the Iraqi people – and the whole world. 

International humanitarian law clearly prohibits such acts, and perpetrators who target these objects while being aware of their religious and historical character may be held accountable for war crimes, as in the groundbreaking Timbuktu case at the International Criminal Court.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]) or Liz Throssell  ( +41 22 917 9466/ [email protected] ) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / [email protected])
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