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UN rights chief condemns attacks by Yemen armed forces

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Wednesday condemned [news release] attacks in Al Dhale Governorate by Yemeni armed forces, which are disproportionately affecting civilians. Pillay reported that since December, these attacks have killed more than 40 individuals, four of whom were children. Also of concern is the fact that buildings such as hospitals, clinics and schools have been shelled during some of these attacks. Although Yemeni forces have claimed that they have been attacked by armed groups, Pillay responded that these claims "can never justify the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks." Another area of concern involved the non-action of the investigation committee that was established by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in response to the December 27 shelling of a funeral procession [JURIST report] that killed 21 Yemeni civilians and injured 30 others. Pillay urged the committee to release any findings and recommendations that resulted from its investigation. Also noted was the fact that approximately 50,000 Yemeni civilians are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, and additionally that a number of civilians may be trapped in various towns due to ongoing violence. Pillay called on commanders to ensure that troops respect international law, and called on Yemeni authorities to allow UN agencies immediate access in order to deliver humanitarian aid, as well as to ensure that civilians wishing to leave conflict areas are safely able to do so.

The UN and other advocacy organizations have repeatedly urged the Yemeni government to investigate possible human rights violations and to reform the country's laws in accordance with international human rights standards. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] in November called on Yemen's National Dialogue Conference (NDC) to endorse proposed legislation that would strike down a 2012 law providing blanket immunity [JURIST reports] to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The new legislation would allow Saleh to be prosecuted for any crime, including any human rights violations. HRW called on [JURIST report] the NDC in September to incorporate stronger protections for women's rights into its new constitution. In March HRW urged [JURIST report] the government to stop seeking and enforcing the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The group accused the Yemeni government, which has the fifth highest number of executions in the world, of executing at least 15 individuals since 2007 for crimes committed while under the age of 18. HRW also criticized [JURIST report] Yemeni authorities in February for failing to investigate top officials for the shooting deaths of 45 anti-government demonstrators who were killed in March 2011.

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