Yemen: Civilians should not be hostage to ongoing armed clashes

Press release
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Joint statement of
FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
and its member organization in Yemen
HRITC - Human Rights Information and Training Center

Since 18 September, 2014, the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, has been the scene of intense and deadly clashes between Houthi armed groups , and on the other hand army forces and anti-Houthi armed groups including forces affiliated to the al-Islah political party. Houthi armed groups seem to have gained control of the city, without apparent intervention of security forces. The Ministry of Health has put forth the number of 200 casualties, and 461 injuries as a direct result of the armed clashes [1] and hundreds families have been displaced.

“Civilians have been stuck amid heavy fighting between the belligerents, and are consequently paying a very heavy price. We welcome the cease-fire agreement (“National Peace and Partnership Agreement/ NPPA”) facilitated by the United Nations (UN). We now urge the UN to exert its influence to guarantee immediate and effective measures to protect the civilian population from further human rights violations, and to provide humanitarian aid to those in needs and in particular displaced persons. We further recall to all parties their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law”, declared Ezzadin Al Asbahi, FIDH Vice President and Director of FIDH member organization in Yemen, the Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC).

Watch an interview of Ezzadin Al Asbahi on the situation in Yemen and his call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to take action.

Despite the current UN-brokered NPPA cease-fire agreement, the situation in Sanaa is far from stable and the risk of further deterioration remains high. As of 22 September, the Huthis were still occupying several military and public buildings in Sanaa.

"The UN Human Rights Council should request an independent and effective investigation into all cases of violations and human rights abuses and of international humanitarian law, including against human rights defenders, activists, and media workers, as well as encourage a comprehensive political solution”, declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

The Human Rights Council (HRC), gathered for its 27th session in Geneva, will address the human rights situation in Yemen on 24 September and adopt a resolution. FIDH and HRITC call on the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to make full use of the mandate given to it by the HRC and of the memorandum of understanding signed with Yemen, which allows its continued presence in the country.

The cease-fire agreement NPPA signed on 21 September included an « immediate » end of hostilities, the nomination of a Prime Minister within 3 days and the constitution of a new government within one month which would include representatives of the Huthi and of the Southern movement. The Huthis have been further requesting the implementation of the National Dialogue outcomes adopted in early 2014.

Background information

Since August, Huthi forces have taken position near Sanaa. They have been calling for a new government and the reinstatement of fuel subsidies lifted a few weeks earlier by the government. Mass protests have sprung in Sanaa to denounce this measure.
On 7 September, demonstrators blocked the main road to the airport near the Electricity Ministry and government forces allegedly used unnecessary force including lethal force causing the death of 8 protesters, one ambulance driver and injuring at least 67 persons.

The Yemeni authorities have announced, in the framework of the cease-fire negotiations, the establishment of a fact finding commission into these events. Over the past years, the Yemeni government has continuously demonstrated its inability and/or unwillingness to establish the facts, and hold alleged perpetrators accountable for human rights violations. Despite reiterated pledges to the HRC, the Yemeni authorities have failed to establish a fact-finding commission into the events of the 2011 protests. More recently in a similar context, the Yemeni president announced an investigation into armed violence involving governmental forces that erupted in the region of Dhale’a in December 2013, though to this date the findings were not made public.

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