Safety and security of Yemeni civilians at risk unless truce is extended, says human rights chief

Displaced children living in a settlement in Aden City, Yemen.
© UNICEF/Ahmed Abdulhaleem
Displaced children living in a settlement in Aden City, Yemen.

Safety and security of Yemeni civilians at risk unless truce is extended, says human rights chief

Human Rights

Warring factions in Yemen are being urged to extend a UN-mediated truce following reports of deaths and injuries of civilians from sniper attacks and shelling. The truce, which started at the beginning of April, ended more than a month ago, and human rights chief, Volker Türk, says that there is grave and growing concern for the safety and security of civilians.

Mr. Türk has echoed calls from the UN Secretary-General to extend the truce and to work towards a negotiated settlement to bring the conflict to an end once and for all.

The outbreak of war over seven years ago between a pro-Government, Saudi-led coalition, and Houthi rebels - together with their backers - plunged Yemen into an unparalleled humanitarian crisis.

Reduced casualties

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The truce agreement had brought relative calm. There was a sharp reduction in civilian casualties, the flow of fuel deliveries to Hudaydah increased and Sanaa airport reopened after years of closure to commercial flights.

However, the truce expired at the beginning of October without the parties to the conflict reaching an agreement to extend it.

Since then, reports have been received of civilians being in grave danger. In the last week of October, UN rights office, OHCHR, verified three incidents of shelling in Government-controlled territory that claimed the lives of a boy and a man, and wounded four boys, including two who required leg amputations.

Three incidents of sniper shootings attributed to Houthi, or Ansar Allah movement forces, injuring a boy, a woman and two men, have also been verified. On 21 October, Ansar Allah also conducted a drone attack on Al Dhabah oil terminal port in Hadramaut Governorate that exposed civilians to unwarranted, serious risk.

Abide by international law

The UN rights chief said Friday that all parties to the conflict must strictly adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law in the conduct of military operations and do their utmost to limit the impact of fighting on civilians.

He reminded parties to the conflict that they have strict obligations to facilitate humanitarian access to populations in need and facilitate civilian access to humanitarian and life-saving services.

He said that the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian objects is prohibited by international law and constitutes a war crime, and that any such attacks must immediately cease, while relevant authorities should investigate such incidents and hold those responsible to account.

‘Choose peace for good’

Briefing journalists in Geneva, Spokesperson for OHCHR, Jeremy Laurence, added: “It is clearly evident that the suffering of the Yemeni people will continue until this conflict is brought to an end.

“We therefore reiterate the calls of the UN Secretary-General who has said it is time for Government forces and their allies, together with Ansar Allah forces and their international backers, to choose peace for good.”