Prison shelling in Yemen kills five women and a child: UN rights chief condemns possible war crime

6 April 2020

The UN has condemned the shelling of the women’s section of the Central Prison in a district of Yemen’s war-torn Taizz Governerate, in the south of the country, which has left at least five women and one child dead, and wounding more than 11, with casualties expected to rise. 

Shells hit the prison in Al Mudhaffar District in Taizz on Sunday, at a time when there did not appear to be any direct clashes on-going, in the years-long battle for the country being waged between pro-Government forces and Houthi rebels, who hold large sections of the country, including the capital, Sana’a. 

“We share our deepest condolences with families who are grieving for their loved ones and we wish the injured a swift recovery”, said Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. 

The injured were rushed to Al Thawra and Al Bureihi hospitals where humanitarian partners are providing surgical and medical support, including trauma kits, said Ms. Grande. Al Thawra Hospital was hit by missiles twice in March. 

“We’re facing massive humanitarian problems in the country”, she added: “There’s no reason and no justification for these strikes and attacks to continue.” 

Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Nearly 80 per cent of the population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. Ten million people are a step away from famine and seven million are malnourished. Nearly 14 million people depend on humanitarian aid every month. Of the UN’s 41 major humanitarian programmes, 31 will either reduce or shut during April unless funding is urgently received. 

Shelling ‘could amount to a war crime’: Bachelet 

The UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said that she understood three shells had been fired by Houthi fighters, hitting the women’s section of the prison. 

“At the time of the attack, there were reportedly no armed clashes between the warring parties in the area. Furthermore, there was no apparent military presence in the vicinity of the prison. Such an attack cannot be justified in any circumstances”, added the High Commissioner in a statement.  

“This attack appears to be in breach of international humanitarian law, and depending on the circumstances could amount to a war crime.” 

No justification 

Ms. Grande added that “a strike like this, which results in the killing and injury of defenseless women and children, cannot be justified…It is an appalling breach of international humanitarian principles.” 

 

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