A delegation from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Tuesday released a report [text, PDF] announcing a humanitarian crisis in Yemen [press release] that requires immediate intervention. The delegation was sent to Yemen in late June [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. Preliminary findings were released in July [JURIST report]. The OHCHR verified that the Yemeni government is firing on peaceful protesters as well as warring against armed rebels, and that as a tactic of war, both sides are withholding water, fuel and electricity from civilians:
The Mission notes the danger that the protests might become increasingly radicalized and more violent in response to the excessive use of lethal force by the government, and the growing involvement of, and intimidation by, armed elements within the demonstrations. In essence violence has led to more violence and it is a tribute to the street protesters that they have sought to maintain their peaceful character despite the heavy price in loss of life and in severe injuries that has been paid thus far. On the other hand, the Mission is alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian situation, which is negatively affecting most Yemenis, but in particular the poorest and most vulnerable, such as children, IDPs and refugees. Isolated acts of sabotage cannot account for all the suffering witnessed by or reported to the Mission throughout the country and the availability of electricity, fuel, cooking gas, water and other basic services should not be misused to punish the entire population. The Mission is of the view that calls for investigations and prosecutions will be undermined unless urgent measures are undertaken to ensure the independence and integrity of the judiciary and to provide them with sufficient resources. Additionally, given the lack of confidence by many Yemenis in the judiciary to conduct impartial investigations into human rights abuses there is a need for international, independent and impartial investigations to take place.The report also listed a number of human rights atrocities, including the government shooting at ambulances and preventing activists from receiving medical treatment, utilizing child soldiers and illegally detaining, torturing and killing an inestimable number of adults and children. The report ended with a plea to both the armed rebels and the government of Yemen to end the violence and called on the international community to condemn Yemen's action and provide humanitarian and financial relief to the nation.
The delegation's report 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].