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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing notes on Yemen and Chad

01 September 2015

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Cécile Pouilly
Location: Geneva
Date: 1 September 2015

1) Yemen

We are alarmed by the steep increase in the number of civilian casualties in Taiz in recent weeks, as well as the untenable humanitarian situation, which is being made worse by the blockage of supply routes into Taiz city by Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis.

In the past two weeks, according to information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office, an estimated 95 civilians have been killed and 129 injured in Taiz. Fifty-three of these civilian deaths occurred on 20 August, reportedly as result of a series of airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition forces that hit 20 homes near Salah Palace in Taiz. According to local reports, active fighters in the Houthi popular committees were believed to be based in the Salah Palace at the time. The other 42 civilians were killed as a result of sniper and shelling attacks, reportedly by members of the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis. We are also concerned about the near collapse of the healthcare system in Taiz, where all six public hospitals are no longer operational due to fighting between parties to the conflict in the vicinity or because Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis have taken up military positions nearby and hospital staff and others are fearful of the associated risks. Smaller private hospitals with limited capacity have been overwhelmed with the vast number of severely injured patients, as well as the outbreak of Dengue Fever in the area.

In another serious incident, on 18 August in Amran Governorate, an estimated 21 civilians, including four children and two women, were killed and 28 others injured, reportedly after an airstrike by coalition forces hit the office of the Teachers Syndicate. The teachers had gathered to prepare for the final examinations of primary and secondary students.
Since the escalation of the armed conflict on 26 March and up to 27 August, we have documented some 6,631 civilian casualties, including 2,112 civilian deaths, and 4,519 wounded. These are conservative figures based on information gathered by our field monitors and the actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

We are also very concerned about the disastrous impact on the humanitarian situation of attacks by coalition forces on Hodeidah port, which is a key entry point for humanitarian supplies and commercial imports into Yemen. We urge all parties to allow and facilitate unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief.

2) Chad

We deeply regret the resumption of the death penalty in Chad. Ten people were executed by firing squad on Saturday, 29 August morning, after being sentenced to death under the new anti-terrorism law the previous day. This is the first use of the death penalty in the country since 2003.

This is particularly disappointing given that, in September 2014, the Government of Chad had announced that a penal code aimed at abolishing the death penalty had been approved by the cabinet. However, on 30 July 2015, the National Parliament of Chad adopted a new law on terrorism which introduced the death penalty.

The use of the death penalty is an extremely unfortunate development and goes against recommendations on the abolition of death penalty that were accepted by Chad during its Universal Periodic Review in the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014. We call upon the Government of Chad to introduce an official moratorium aiming at abolition of the death penalty.

There are also serious concerns regarding the speed with which these executions have been carried out. Any trial which could lead to the imposition of the death penalty must rigorously comply with all aspects of a fair trial.

We also call upon the Chadian authorities to review the anti-terrorism law adopted last July as it contains a very vague definition of terrorism inconsistent with principles of legality, and potentially puts many people at risk of execution.

For more information or media requests, please contact Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / [email protected]) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / [email protected]).

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