UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] on Friday encouraged the Yemen government to reconsider its decision [press release report] to expel the country’s human rights representative. The government claimed that George Abu al-Zulof, the human rights representative, was biased and failed in assessing the country’s human rights situation. Zeid said:
Our job is not to highlight violations committed by one side and ignore those committed by the other. … To the best of our ability, in a very fluid and dangerous environment, we have tried to monitor and report objectively on the human rights situation in Yemen. Unfortunately, both sides have very clearly committed violations, resulting in some 2,800 civilian deaths over the past nine months. Our role is to focus on human rights and the protection of civilians, not on the politics.
Zeid’s statement comes just days after his office reported that the ongoing conflict is responsible for 8,119 civilian casualties [JURIST report], including 2,795 dead and 5,324 wounded. The numbers stem in part from the use of illegal cluster munitions [JURIST report], which spread bomblets over a wide area, many of which do not immediately explode, allowing the bomblets to kill or maim civilians long after a conflict ends.
The rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen has sparked significant international concern. Last month the UN World Food Programme appealed to all the parties involved in the Yemen conflict to allow the safe passage of food [JURIST report] to the city of Taiz where people have been going hungry for weeks. In October Amnesty International called for an independent investigation into possible war crimes surrounding the destruction of a hospital [JURIST report] run by Doctors Without Borders in Yemen. Also in October human rights organizations criticized the UN Human Rights Council for passing a resolution on Yemen that did not call for an independent international war crimes investigation [JURIST report].