A new United Nations report calls for an independent probe into alleged human rights abuses committed in Yemen since the start of protests earlier this year, as well as immediate action to protect civilians and address the “deteriorating” humanitarian situation in the country.
The report by the assessment team from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), issued today, notes “credible allegations of serious human rights violations” committed by the Government security forces, including the killing of civilians, excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, and torture and ill treatment.
“Given the lack of confidence in the judiciary to conduct impartial investigations into human rights abuses related to the peaceful protest movement, there is a need for international, independent and impartial investigations to take place,” states the team, which visited Yemen from 28 July to 6 July.
The report notes that hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured since the crackdown on protesters began. In several cases, Government forces prevented wounded demonstrators from accessing hospitals or turned away doctors or ambulances.
Civil unrest in Yemen has escalated since the start of this year, as it has across much of North Africa and the Middle East, with public protests calling for political reform and greater democracy.
The assessment team observed “an overall situation where many Yemenis peacefully calling for greater freedoms, an end to corruption and respect for rule of law were met with excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by the state,” according to the report.
During its visit, the team witnessed the deployment of tanks in Ta’izz and shelling of the city at night, as well as signs of collective punishment, causing severe hardship to the civilian population, including disruption of access to electricity, fuel and water.
It also received many reports of children having been subjected to the same extreme violence as adults, including killings, injury, suffocation from gas, torture, arbitrary detention, and recruitment by security forces. Children have been seen in uniform patrolling the streets, serving at Government checkpoints and involved in searching protestors.
“The Government must undertake immediate measures to end the use and recruitment of children, demobilize those who have already been recruited and cooperate with the United Nations for their integration into their communities,” the report states.
“All prisoners detained for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression and assembly must be immediately and unconditionally released,” it adds.
The team visited Aden, Sana’a and Ta’izz and met with key officials, including the Vice-President, leaders of political parties and members of Parliament as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), lawyers, journalists, doctors, human rights defenders, victims of violations and their relatives.