Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Yemen: UN human rights office calls for halt to use of force against protesters

Yemenis protesting against the government in Sana’a

UN - The United Nations human rights office today called on the Yemeni Government to immediately halt the use of force against people exercising their right to peaceful protest, noting that over 100 people have reportedly been killed since the demonstrations began.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also called on the Government to fulfil its earlier commitment to establish a commission of inquiry into recent allegations of killings and abuse by Government forces.

This includes the incidents of 18 March, when more than 45 people were reportedly killed in Sana’a, as well as yesterday’s violent suppression of protests in Taiz.

“We are very alarmed by reports of disproportionate and excessive use of force, including machine guns, against peaceful protestors by Government security forces in Taiz yesterday, which apparently led to at least 15 deaths and dozens of serious injuries,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva.

It is estimated that the recent political turmoil in Yemen, part of a wave of protests across the Middle East and North Africa calling for social, economic and democratic reforms, has led to more than 100 deaths – which OHCHR believes may be a conservative estimate – and hundreds of injuries.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, in a telephone call to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, emphasized the UN’s desire to see Yemen enjoy peace, stability and security, adding he has dispatched a small team to the country to engage with the concerned parties on how best the UN could assist in fostering dialogue.

Mr. Ban expressed strong concerns over deaths and injuries, and urged utmost restraint by both Government security forces and protesters. He said that violence and the use of force can only exacerbate the situation, adding that he trusted Mr. Saleh’s wisdom to arrive at a peaceful solution in the interest of all Yemeni people.

OHCRH also noted “worrying” reports of detention, harassment and expulsion of human rights defenders and journalists in Yemen.

It also called on the Government to halt the targeting of minorities, particularly the marginalized group commonly referred to as the Akhdam.

“We call on the Government to heed calls for human rights reforms in the country and urge a meaningful dialogue between the Government and opposition aimed at finding agreement on a peaceful way forward,” said Mr. Colville.

Top UN officials, including Mr. Ban and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, have voiced their concern about the situation in Yemen, where the ongoing violence is worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis owing to protracted conflict in the north.

Mr. Ban has called for a broad dialogue with the political opposition, youth groups and other elements of civil society leading to “bold” reforms in the country.