OHCHR Press briefing note on Yemen (24 April 2018)

Elizabeth Throssell, OHCHR. (UN Photo/ Violaine Martin)

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location: Geneva
Date: 24 April 2018
Subject: (1) Yemen 

In Yemen, at least 45 people, reportedly all civilians, have been killed by airstrikes in three separate incidents over the past four days. The dead include women and children. Many others were injured.

Last Friday, 20 April, at around 11:00 am, a Saudi-led Coalition airstrike killed all the passengers in a civilian vehicle travelling near Al-Areish village in the Mawza district of Taizz governorate. A total of 21 civilians including five children are reported to have died in this attack. Eyewitness told our staff in Yemen, that the victims were returning to their home on a small rural road, when the airstrike destroyed their vehicle. The bodies of the victims were so badly burned and mutilated that they have been hard to identify. Local inhabitants insisted to our staff that, at the time of the attack, there were no military objects in the vicinity of the targeted area.

Two days later, on Sunday 22 April, airstrikes caused a large number of civilian casualties in two separate incident. 

In the most devastating of these, at around 20:30-21:00 hrs, during a wedding ceremony in the Bani Qa'is district of Hajjah governorate, preliminary inquiries by our staff suggest that two airstrikes killed at least 19 civilians and injured some 50 others, of whom more than half were children. According to information received by UN human rights staff in Yemen, the two Coalition airstrikes destroyed a wedding tent in the grounds of a civilian house in Al-Raqah village, while the victims were celebrating the marriage of their relatives. Local inhabitants informed our staff that the victims do not have any political affiliation – not to say that that would have made the wedding party a legitimate target. They also claimed there were no military objectives in the vicinity of the targeted area at the time of the attack.

Our office is still working on gathering more information on the names, ages and gender of the civilians killed and injured during this deplorable incident. Initial information indicates that 29 children were among the 50 or more people injured in the attack. The final toll of deaths and injuries during this incident may be higher.

Earlier on Sunday, at around 14:00, in the Midi district of Hajjah governorate, a Coalition airstrike reportedly hit a civilian house, killing all five members of a single family, including three children and one woman. Our staff were informed that the victims were having lunch inside their house, in an area called Al-Hadwariah, when it received a direct hit from a missile. The family’s neighbours told UN human rights staff that they had seen warplanes in the area just before the incident.

We note that the members of the Coalition are conducting an after-action review of the attack on the wedding party, but urge them to fully investigate all these latest deadly attacks independently, thoroughly and transparently. Those found to be responsible should be held accountable and reparations or remedy provided to the victims. We also urge them, once again, to ensure that all their forces observe the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.

We would also like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and colleagues of the ICRC staff member shot dead in his vehicle on Saturday by an unidentified gunman, or gunmen, in the Sabir Al Mawadim district of Taizz governorate.

A total of more than 6,300 civilians have been killed, and 9,900 injured since the start of the conflict in March 2015, as verified by the UN human rights office in Yemen. The total number of casualties, including fighters and unverified cases, is likely much higher.