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UN rights chief condemns Yemen violence, urges investigation

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday urged all sides in Yemen to cease ongoing deadly attacks [press release] and live up to previous commitments to investigate the serious human rights violations of its former government, calling for an immediate and impartial investigation. Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website], condemned all Yemeni factions [press release] after claiming that as many as 22 people have been killed in the city of Taiz by shootings and shellings [Al Jazeera report] since December 1, including two children. Despite tanks withdrawing from the city under a ceasefire pact to end violence that has consumed the country for nearly 10 months, witnesses and activists have claimed that forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh [official website, in Arabic; JURIST news archive] shot and killed a woman protester in Taiz just this week. Shamdasani added that the ongoing severity of the clashes between armed rebels and the Yemeni army warrant an immediate intervention by the OHCHR, and she called on Yemeni government officials to allow a UN investigation as soon as possible. The Yemeni government has yet to issue a response.

Yemen has been faced with calls for human rights investigations consistently throughout its government's transition. Last week, Nobel peace laureate Tawakkul Karman [BBC profile; Nobel profile] urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate [JURIST report] Saleh's violent crackdown on dissent and alleged human rights violations while in power. In September, the UN Security Council [official website] called on Yemen to comply with international law [JURIST report] and end ongoing violence against protesters that resulted in the deaths of at least 49 people [Al Jazeera report] shortly following Saleh's return as president after a three-month absence. The OHCHR has also previously urged a UN intervention [JURIST report] in Yemen after verifying that the Yemeni government was indeed firing on peaceful protesters. Saleh clung to the presidency throughout nearly 10 months of protests and violence despite agreeing to step down [JURIST report] in April, shortly following his attempt to remove presidential term limits [JURIST report] and expand his political authority.

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