22 September 2011 The United Nations human rights chief today urged the Government and opposition groups in Yemen to begin a genuine dialogue to prevent further violence, after clashes reportedly led to dozens of deaths of mostly unarmed demonstrators earlier this week.
“Yemen is at a very sensitive and dangerous crossroads and the Government and opposition will need to tread carefully, with the support of the international community, to bring it through this phase and into a lasting peace, with respect for the human rights of its people,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
A team from the High Commissioner’s office (OHCHR) that visited Yemen from 28 June to 6 July has called for an independent probe into alleged human rights abuses committed since the start of protests earlier this year.
Since the team’s visit, the violence has resumed between security forces and protesters seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh – part of a wider wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
Ms. Pillay condemned the use of live ammunition and snipers by security forces and their affiliates against protesters, as well as the resort to violence by anti-Government armed groups.
“My June assessment mission to Yemen concluded that the State had used excessive force to quell demonstrations – including the use of water cannons attached to the sewage water system, live ammunition, snipers and ultimately heavy weaponry…
“In the past few days we have seen a repetition of similar tactics and a resultant heavy loss of life. It is disappointing that lessons have not been learned and violations repeated,” she said.
The High Commissioner strongly urged the Government to implement all the recommendations contained in the assessment team’s report, especially to allow an international independent investigation into the violations that have taken place, to bring those responsible to justice and to compensate the victims.
She also urged the authorities to cooperate with OHCHR in setting up a country office soon. “We stand ready to help Yemen move forward and hope the Government of Yemen will accept our outstretched hand.”
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