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UN experts* call for further and swifter measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, particularly in detention facilities in Yemen

25 June 2020


BEIRUT/GENEVA, 25 June 2020 – The Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen, today urged all parties to the conflict in Yemen to take further measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, in particular to undertake further releases of persons deprived of their liberty (‘detainees’).

Since the Group of Experts issued its first press statement in March calling for preventive measures to be taken to address the risk of infection in detention facilities, COVID-19 cases have now been officially confirmed in Yemen. The Group of Experts welcomes the reports of measures taken to date by the parties to the conflict.

However, given the appalling overcrowding in detention facilities and the scarcity of adequate health services, the Group of Experts calls for the immediate release of all persons most at risk of being infected. These include all pregnant women, children, persons with disabilities, elderly persons, and those who are sick. The Group also recommends the release of low-risk offenders, detainees held on remand, and those nearing the end of their sentences, as well as others who can be safely reintegrated into society.

Recalling the Group’s call made in its 2019 Report submitted to the Human Rights Council, Mr. Kamel Jendoubi, Chairperson of the Group, also said “all persons detained in a manner contrary to international human rights and humanitarian law should be released immediately, including members of the Baha’i community, and those subject to an order of release granted by judicial authorities, such as journalists”. He also welcomed commitments made by authorities to further releases.

The Group of Experts is aware of the need for relevant authorities to consider public safety as well as security imperatives in their decision-making about the release of detainees. This has particular application to persons who have committed violent crimes, as well as the detention of persons whose activities pose a serious threat to the security of the detaining authority in relation to an armed conflict. However, it calls on all parties to take adequate measures, in line with international standards, to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for those who remain in detention.

The Group of Experts stresses the importance of all parties to the conflict adopting measures, recognising the potentially catastrophic effect for persons in detention and the broader community if the virus were to spread further in Yemen, given the significant limitations of the Yemeni health system. In this regard the Group calls on all parties to focus their efforts on fighting COVID-19, instead of engaging in renewed conflict, for the sake of the population that has already suffered so much during more than 5 years of conflict.

The Group of Experts further urged all relevant stakeholders, including third parties, to step up humanitarian aid and assistance. “Faced with the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, the international community must do more to secure the funds needed to address the plight of the Yemeni population that will only worsen with the impact of COVID-19”, Mr. Jendoubi said.


*The Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen are: Mr. Kamel Jendoubi (Tunisia) (Chairperson), Ms. Melissa Parke (Australia) and Mr. Ardi Imseis (Canada)

For more information about the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, please visit the GEE webpage

Media contact: (Beirut) Joël Mermet, Coordinator, Secretariat - Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, e-mail: [email protected], mobile: +961 81 105 565