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Yemen: UN human rights office calls on all sides to halt violence

6 December 2011 – The United Nations today called on all sides in Yemen to halt the use of violence and on the Government to allow access for human rights monitors.

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.

“We condemn the continuing attacks on civilians,” Ravina Shamdasani, acting spokesperson for OHCHR told reporters in Geneva.

“The continued use of disproportionate force by part of the Government’s security forces, despite commitments made to investigate serious human rights violations, is extremely disappointing. The killings must stop immediately and we urge all sides to halt the use of violent force.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that three children have been killed and seven injured in the latest round of 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.

Elisabeth Byrs for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) added that the Yemen Humanitarian Country Team, comprising UN agencies and international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have urgently called for the protection of civilians in Taiz after the latest killings.

She added at the news briefing in Geneva that violence continues, despite a ceasefire agreement that was agreed on 4 December. 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.

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.

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