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UN warns of escalation of conflict in Yemen and its effects on civilians after Saudi bombing of a detention center    

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News briefing 

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice

Geneva: January 30, 2022

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned of the escalation of the conflict in Yemen and its devastating impact on civilians, following three successive air strikes launched by the Saudi-led coalition that hit a detention center run by the Ansar Allah movement (also known as the “Houthis”) located in the northern city of Saada, causing dozens of deaths.

A tragic situation and a bleak picture: 

The Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, indicated that a number of staff from the High Commissioner office in Saada, Yemen, visited the prison this week, as part of an inter-agency mission, and collected information that paints a chaotic, bleak and desperate picture of the situation after the bombing of the remand prison, which is believed to house 1,300 pretrial detainees and 700 migrants.

Colville confirmed that they are doing their best to verify civilian casualties, but reports indicate that about 91 detainees were killed so far, and 236 others have been injured, most of whom were killed when the top floor of a building collapsed. The critically injured were taken to the city’s Al Jomhori Hospital, which is facing impossibilities to treat all patients who need urgent and life-saving treatment.

A transparent and impartial investigation is necessary: 

The High Commissioner spokesperson urged the Saudi-led coalition to ensure that the investigation that it announced is in line with international standards, transparent, independent and impartial, and to aim to determine the cause of the bombing of the prison, ensure individual accountability for any violations of international humanitarian law, and identify the necessary measures and procedures to prevent such incidents in the future.

Regarding the escalating conflict, Colville stated that in 2021, the United Nations recorded 600 airstrikes a month by the Saudi-led Coalition across Yemen. Also in 2021, Ansar Allah carried out 340 missile and drone attacks on the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He added that as of January 26 this year, the coalition had carried out 1,403 air strikes, and Ansar Allah 39 cross-border attacks, mostly on Saudi Arabia but some on the United Arab Emirates.

The need to respect international law: 

Colville urged all parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law during hostilities, including taking all feasible measures to verify that targets are indeed military objectives at the time they intend to carry out their strikes.

“We renew our demand that Ansar Allah immediately release two UN staff members who work for the UN Human Rights Office and UNESCO respectively. Our colleagues have been unacceptably detained since early November in Sana’a without any information provided as to the grounds or legal basis for their detention, or any communication with their families. We also recall the privileges and immunities accorded to staff of the UN system under international law, which are essential to the proper discharge of their official functions,” said The High Commissioner spokesperson.

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