GENEVA (26 February 2014) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned on Wednesday the indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks affecting civilians by Yemen’s armed forces in Al Dhale Governorate, south of Yemen, and called for unrestricted humanitarian access to the area.
“I am shocked by a series of attacks led by Yemen’s armed forces in Al Dhale Governorate that reportedly killed more than 40 persons since December, including at least 6 children,” Pillay said.
Since January 16, our office has documented a series of eight attacks during which at least four hospitals and clinics, four schools, one college and one institution for people with disabilities were shelled.
The latest incident was reported on February 18, when Government armed forces shelled Al Dhale city, killing seven civilians and injuring eight others, after an army convoy near the office of the local government in the city was attacked.
The High Commissioner expressed grave concern that the 33rd armoured brigade of the Yemeni armed forces, which is stationed in Al Dhale, is reportedly responsible for these attacks.
“Claims by Yemen’s armed forces that they were fired upon by armed groups or that their bases were attacked can never justify the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” Pillay said.
The High Commissioner reminded commanders of their responsibility to ensure that their troops fully respect international law, in particular the right to life, even in the most difficult circumstances.
“I call upon the Yemeni authorities to carry out credible and transparent investigations of alleged human rights violations in Al Dhale and to hold those responsible accountable. These investigations should be independent, impartial, effective, prompt and transparent,” said the High Commissioner.
“I am concerned that no concrete recommendation or measure has been taken since President Hadi established a high-level committee to investigate the events that led to the killing of 21 civilians during a funeral ceremony in Al Dhale on 27 December 2013. I urge the Committee to release its findings and recommendation,” Pillay said.
The High Commissioner called upon both government armed forces and armed groups to take all necessary measures to prevent civilians from being affected by the violence, including by avoiding having military targets within or near densely populated areas.
Pillay also expressed concerns about the plight of some 50,000 people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in conflict areas and urged the Government of Yemen to allow immediate and unimpeded access to all UN agencies and relevant organisations to secure the delivery of humanitarian aid. “We have also received worrying reports that civilians could be trapped in several towns, including Al Dhale city, Alhusain and Sannah due to ongoing fighting. I urge the Yemeni authorities to investigate this situation and ensure that, if civilians wish to leave these conflict affected areas, they are able to safely do so,” Pillay said.