UN Human Rights Council must act to protect civilians in Yemen

Press release
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While the UN Human Rights Council holds its 12th session during which the Universal Periodic Review working group will adopt its final report on Yemen, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and their member and partner organisations in Yemen, Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF) and the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (Hood) urge the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution calling upon the government of Yemen to respect their obligations to protect civilians in the armed conflict with Huthi rebels and take concrete steps to address the recent escalation of human rights violations within the country.

Our organizations are extremely concerned about the consequences of the current fighting between government forces and armed al-Huthi rebels which has lead to attacks on the civilian population in the Sadaa governorate. Since August 12, 2009, a new round of heavy fighting erupted in the northern region putting an end to the cease-fire signed in mid-July 2008 and initiating the latest of six rounds of serious fighting between the al-Houthi rebels and the government.

On September 16, air-strikes led by Yemeni armed forces in the Adi zone in Amran’s governorate, hit a refugee camp and according to the information received, killed 87 civilians and injured 40 others. During the air-strike, four raids were allegedly launched near a school with no advance warning. Our organisations recall Yemen’s governement its obligation to protect civilians in compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons which applies to internal armed conflicts and prohibits in particular, attacks that target or indiscriminately harm civilians. The Yemeni authorities shall launch an impartial investigation into this tragic event without delay.

On September 18, the UNHCR declared the humanitarian situation of the civilian population alarming while since mid-August, the city of Saada remains isolated and inaccessible for external humanitarian aid. Furthermore, the conflict has forced around 150 000 people to flee their homes since 2004 and most of the internal displaced persons are put at stake as they are not able to reach safe places.

Furthermore, the Yemeni authorities should immediatly allow humanitarian and human rights organizations as well as journalists access to Saada’s governorate. The ongoing blockade of the conflict areas to humanitarian agencies and organisations has dire consequences for the provision of medicines, food, and other humanitarian supplies as well as for reliable information about the impact of the fighting on the civilian population. In addition, the presence of journalists and human rights groups in conflict areas remains an essential check on human rights abuses and violations of the International Humanitarian Law. The UN Human Rights Council urgently needs to take up this issue and do all it can to ensure the protection of all civilians within conflict zones, as well as strongly condemn any and all attacks on journalists, human rights groups and humanitarain workers within Yemen.

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