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Condemning violence in Yemen, UN rights chief urges protection of civilians

Article / Review by on December 6, 2011 – 7:32 pmNo Comments

Condemning violence in Yemen, UN rights chief urges protection of civilians

Children in Al-Mazrak IDP camp in Haradh, northern Yemen. Photo: OCHA Children in Al-Mazrak IDP camp in Haradh, northern Yemen. Photo: OCHA

The United Nations human rights chief today condemned the killing of unarmed civilians in Yemen in recent days, and stressed that lethal force and heavy weapons must not be used against peaceful protesters.

There are reports of more than 20 people being killed in the southern city of Taiz since last Thursday, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

This is despite the recent signing of an accord to restore peace and stability in the country, which has been rocked by civil unrest and violence since the start of pro-democracy protests earlier this year.

“It is appalling and extremely disappointing that despite the successive deals and ceasefires, Government security forces continue to use live ammunition against unarmed protestors,” said High Commissioner Navi Pillay.

The killings must stop immediately and we urge all sides to halt the use of violent force.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), three children have been killed and seven injured in the latest violence in Taiz, bringing the total number of children killed since March to 138 and those injured to 568. A three-month-old child, killed on 1 December, is among the dead.

Ms. Pillay stressed that violence is not the way to resolve the current difficulties in Yemen. “The Government must immediately ensure that lethal force and heavy weapons are not used against peaceful demonstrators.

“Human rights violations in Taiz must be independently investigated, the results of the investigation must be made public, and those responsible must be brought to justice without delay,” she added.

The High Commissioner also called on the Government to grant immediate access to her staff to enable independent assessment of the human rights situation on the ground.

The Yemen Humanitarian Country Team, comprising UN agencies and international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have also called for the protection of civilians in Taiz after the latest killings.

Elisabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told reporters in Geneva that the violence continues, despite a ceasefire agreement reached on Sunday. It is reported that heavy shelling and street fighting have damaged civilian neighbourhoods and forced many residents to flee their homes.

The country team, in a statement, called on all armed actors involved in the conflict in Taiz to ensure the safety and protection of all civilians in accordance with universally recognized principles of human rights and international humanitarian law, Ms. Byrs added.

The protests that began earlier this year in Yemen are part of a broader pro-democracy movement that has swept across North Africa and the Middle East this year.

Under the political agreement reached two weeks ago, President Ali Abdullah Saleh will hand over his powers to Vice-President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi and presidential elections will be staged within 90 days. Over the next two years, a government of national unity will establish a national dialogue to ensure that a broad section of society takes part in determining Yemen’s future, with a constitutional review to follow.


About Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 

Who we are

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.


The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. The High Commissioner heads OHCHR and spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts. We offer leadership, work objectively, educate and take action to empower individuals and assist States in upholding human rights. We are a part of the United Nations Secretariat with our headquarters in Geneva.

The Office’s priorities are set out in two key strategic documents: the OHCHR Plan of Action and its Strategic Management Plan 2010-2011. These priorities include greater country engagement, working closely with our partners at the country and local levels, in order to ensure that international human rights standards are implemented on the ground; a stronger leadership role for the High Commissioner; and closer partnerships with civil society and United Nations agencies.

United Nations human rights system

We also support the work of the United Nations human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council and the core treaty bodies set up for monitoring State Parties’ compliance with international human rights treaties, promote the right to development, coordinate United Nations human rights education and public information activities, and strengthens human rights across the United Nations system. We work to ensure the enforcement of universally recognized human rights norms, including through promoting both the universal ratification and implementation of the major human rights treaties and respect for the rule of law.

Our structure

We have an office at United Nations headquarters in New York and offices in numerous countries and regions. In addition to the Executive Office of the High Commissioner and a number of units that report to the Deputy High Commissioner, OHCHR has two major divisions and four branches.

To implement our comprehensive mandate, we employ more than 850 staff (last update in April 2007), based in Geneva and New York and in 11 country offices and seven regional offices around the world, including a workforce of some 240 international human rights officers serving in UN peace missions.  We are funded from the United Nations regular budget and from voluntary contributions from Member States, intergovernmental organizations, foundations and individuals.



UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:


> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.


* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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