UN rights chief calls on Yemen combatants to allow investigation of civilian casualties

UN rights chief calls on Yemen combatants to allow investigation of civilian casualties

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] on Tuesday urged [press release] combatants in the current conflict in Yemen to report attacks resulting in civilian casualties so that they can be investigated and international human rights law can be upheld. The High Commissioner expressed deep concern for Yemeni civilians, stating:

such a heavy civilian death toll ought to be a clear indication to all parties to this conflict that there may be serious problems in the conduct of hostilities. The parties to the conflict are obliged to ensure that international humanitarian law and international human rights law are scrupulously respected and that the civilian population is protected. Any suspected breach of international law must be urgently investigated with a view to ensuring victims’ right to justice and redress and to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

According to the UN at least 364 civilians have been killed since March 26, with another 681 injured. Zeid also noted that air strikes and shelling during the conflict have destroyed significant amounts of public infrastructure including, hospitals, schools, airports and mosques. The commissioner also reported growing concern over reports of Houthi-affiliated forces firing on protesters and conducting arbitrary arrests in areas under their control. Zeid closed his remarks by calling for all sides to negotiate a swift peace.

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] has sparked significant international concern. Earlier this month the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] on behalf of US citizens still in Yemen against the US State Department and the Department of Defense for allegedly failing to launch an evacuation plan. The same week, in a unanimous vote, Pakistani lawmakers passed a resolution [JURIST report] to stay out of the conflict in Yemen, despite pleas from Saudi Arabia for aid in the form of warships, aircraft and ground troops. Earlier this month, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani urged [JURIST report] the international community to prepare itself for the “massive displacement and humanitarian crisis” that could come as a result of civilians fleeing the fighting in Yemen, stating that they must prepare for a worst case scenario.