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Press briefing notes on Yemen

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date:  5 January 2016

The on-going armed conflict in Yemen continues to take a terrible toll on civilians, with at least 81 civilians reportedly killed and 109 injured in December. This raises the number of civilian casualties recorded between 26 March and 31 December, 2015 to 8,119 people, including 2,795 killed and 5,324 wounded.

During the month of December, at least 62 civilians were reported to have been killed by airstrikes attributed to the coalition forces. This is more than twice the number of civilians reported killed in November (29). On 18 December, for example, 18 civilians were allegedly killed when two airstrikes hit a civilian house in Wadi Kena, in Sa’ada. Our team on the ground also received information indicating that on 20 December, six civilians -- including three children -- were killed and eight others, including four children, were injured when airstrikes hit a residential neighbourhood in Al Hudaydah City, completely or partially destroying some 14 houses.

Airstrikes have continued into the New Year, with around 11 strikes taking place in the capital Sana’a on Sunday and Monday (3 and 4 January), and further airstrikes are reported to have been carried out in the early hours of this morning. We have not yet been able to confirm whether or not these latest strikes have resulted in more civilian casualties, although initial reports indicate several private and public civilian buildings have been hit since Sunday, some of them located in densely populated areas of Sana’a.

We have also received alarming information on the alleged use of cluster bombs by coalition forces in Hajjah Governorate. During a field visit to the village of Al-Odair, in Haradh District, an OHCHR team found remnants of 29 cluster submunitions near banana plantations. According to witnesses, several other villages in the same area have also been affected. Our team also documented the use of cluster submunitions in several other districts, including Hairan and Bakel Al-Meer, and interviewed two patients who had reportedly been wounded, in separate incidents, after stepping on unexploded submunitions.

During December, at least 11 civilians were allegedly killed as a result of shelling attributed to members of the Popular Committees Affiliated with the Houthis, a significant decrease compared to the 32 civilians who were reported killed by them in November.

We remain particularly concerned at the humanitarian situation in Taizz. The city has been the scene of violent clashes for more than eight months, virtually without interruption. Strict control of all entry points into the city by the Popular Committees Affiliated with the Houthis has resulted in limited access to essential items, including food, and made conditions extremely difficult for the civilian population. The health situation in the governorate has also continued to deteriorate, with the Al-Rawdha Hospital, one of the largest hospitals still operating, forced to turn patients away.

The Yemeni prison system has also been heavily impacted by the conflict. Since 26 March, over 40 prisoners have reportedly been killed and some 10 others injured as a result of airstrikes or indiscriminate shelling. More than 4,300 prisoners have reportedly escaped from detention facilities across the country, including ones in Sa’ada, Al Dhale’e and Aden, after they were hit by airstrikes or breached as a result of armed clashes.

Prisoners are increasingly vulnerable. Food, electricity, water and fuel shortages have been reported in many detention facilities as well as the spread of contagious diseases, such as scabies. Many detention facilities are also severely overcrowded.

As most courts are not functioning because of the conflict, there have been delays in the review of detainees’ cases -- and, in some cases, in their release -- and many detainees have been unable to receive visits from their lawyers and relatives.


For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org )

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