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OHCHR mission calls for aid to prevent Yemen humanitarian crisis

A delegation from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Wednesday warned of a potential humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Hani al-Majali, the delegation's head, warned of the potential crisis [SABA report] during a press conference after meeting with Yemeni officials to discuss the findings of the delegation's 10-day mission to the country. Al-Majali said that the Yemeni people are suffering [AFP report] as a result of political violence and conflict in the country, which he stated has negatively impacted the economy, education, medical services, employment and the ability to transport food to rural areas of the country. He said peaceful protests should continue but warned that the government's use of excessive force could cause the protests to escalate into violence. Al-Majai called for international aid to avoid a crisis situation and reminded government officials that any form of punishment due to the country's ongoing power struggle violates international laws. The delegation was sent to Yemen late last month [JURIST report] to gather information about the country's human rights situation by meeting with officials, civilians, members of opposition groups, religious leaders and victims of rights violations. An official report on the delegation's visit is expected to be released in August [SABA report].

The delegation's investigation comes as many rights groups have criticized Yemen for its handling of pro-democracy protests that have persisted since February. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text; PDF] in April urging the international community to pressure Yemeni authorities to investigate protestor deaths. Just days earlier, the OHCHR urged the Yemeni government [JURIST report] to stop using force against peaceful protesters. 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. Saleh, who agreed to step down in April [JURIST report], and his party, the General People's Congress (GPC), had 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. 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 website].

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