Civilians bear brunt of Yemen's unrest, UN human rights office warns

4 March 2016

The number of civilians killed in Yemen continues to rise, almost doubling between January and February, the United Nations human rights office today announced.

“During February, a total of at least 168 civilians were killed and 193 injured, around two-thirds of them by Coalition airstrikes,” the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told journalists in Geneva.

This casualty number is the “highest since September”, he added.

Airstrikes account for the greatest number of casualties, with 99 people affected in the capital, Sana'a, in February, out of 246 people killed or wounded throughout the country during the month.

In the worst single incident, at least 39 civilians were killed and another 33 injured on 27 February, during an airstrike on the Khaleq market in Sana'a's north-eastern district of Nahem. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is among the UN officials who have called for a prompt and impartial investigation.

South of Sana'a, fighting and indiscriminate shelling by members of the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis and allied army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh resulted in 49 civilian casualties in February, including children, according to figures provided by Mr. Colville. The incidents took place mostly in Taizz, Ibb and Al Jawf.

Civilian infrastructure also continues to be damaged or destroyed. Mr. Colville said that both parties have targeted protected civilian sites, along with places such as a cement factory, homes, shops and ambulance and police cars.

“There have also been worrying allegations – which we are still working to verify – that Coalition forces dropped cluster bombs on a mountainous area to the south of the Amran cement factory,” Mr. Colville said. The target appears to have been a military unit loyal to the Houthis.

The UN human rights official also highlighted the dangers posed to journalists, with at least two incidents occurring in February in areas controlled by the Houthis or the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis.

During today's press conference, Mr. Colville referred to a 31 January statement by the Spokesman of the Coalition Forces concerning the establishment of a multi-national team formed by the Command of the Coalition Forces to evaluate the military targeting mechanisms and incidents taking place in civilian areas.

He urged any investigation to be done in accordance with international standards, including independence and impartiality.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, is expected to present an oral update on the situation in Yemen to the Human Rights Council during its current session, which opened in Geneva this past Monday.


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