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UN rights office urges Yemen to halt use of force against protesters

The UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Tuesday urged the Yemeni government to discontinue using force against peaceful protesters [UN News Centre report]. The OHCHR insisted that Yemen [BBC profile] deliver on its promise to establish a commission to inquire into recent alleged government-led killings and abuses that occurred during protests, including those that took place in the capital of Sana'a [JURIST report] in March and in Taiz [Guardian report] yesterday. Forty-five protesters were reportedly killed [Reuters report] at the anti-government rally in Sana'a, and a reported 15 protesters were killed in Taiz. The OHCHR also called on the Yemeni government to halt the targeting of marginalized minority groups.

The Yemeni Parliament enacted several emergency measures [JURIST report] in March at the request of President Ali Abdullah Saleh [official website, in Arabic] in an effort to end anti-government protests. The new laws give the government greater power [AP report] to arrest and detain protesters and to censor the media. Protests, largely organized by the Joint Meeting Party (JMP), have been ongoing in Yemen since February, largely calling for Saleh to step down. Saleh has been in power since 1978 and is considered popular in Yemen and the international community. However, he and his party, the General People's Congress (GPC) have caused mounting political tensions due to attempts to remove presidential term limits [JURIST report] and expand their political power. In December, the parliament stoked outrage among opposition parties and independents when it amended the constitution [AFP report] to eliminate provisions requiring that opposition parties be represented on the high election commission. Although the government has maintained control in urban areas, the northern and southern parts of the country remain unlawful and dangerous, plagued by southern separatists groups and al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]. The protests in Yemen have been analyzed in two recent JURIST op-eds: Constitutional Enforcement in Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt by L. Ali Khan, Professor of Law at Washburn University, and The Middle East protest movements: each with a story, all with uncertainty by Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of Research, Foundation for Defense of Democracies [advocacy organization].

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