Yemen: Unlawful Attacks, Denial of Medical Care in Taizz
US, EU, Gulf Should Reject Immunity for Saleh, Aides
Human Rights Watch
8 February 2012
(New York) – Yemeni security forces stormed and shelled hospitals, evicted patients at gunpoint, and beat medics during an assault on Yemen’s protest movement that killed at least 120 people in the flashpoint city of Taizz last year, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in the United States receiving medical treatment, received amnesty in Yemen for such attacks.
In the 75-page report, "No Safe Places: Yemen's Crackdown on Protests in Taizz," Human Rights Watch called on the United States, the European Union, and Persian Gulf states to publicly acknowledge that the domestic immunity granted Saleh and his aides last month has no legal effect outside Yemen. (…)
(…) When Yemenis took to the streets in January 2011 to demand an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule, Taizz, 250 kilometers south of the capital, Sanaa, became a center of both peaceful and armed resistance – and the scene of numerous human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war. “No Safe Places” is based on more than 170 interviews with protesters, doctors, human rights defenders, and other witnesses to attacks in Taizz by state security forces and pro-Saleh gangs from February to December 2011.
Yemeni security forces repeatedly used excessive and lethal force against largely peaceful protesters in Taizz. During attacks on opposition fighters that began in mid-2011, they also indiscriminately shelled populated areas of the city. Government troops conducted much of the shelling from al-Thawra Hospital, the city’s biggest medical center, which they occupied from June to December, virtually closing it to medical care. (…)
(…) Of the 120 deaths Human Rights Watch confirmed in Taizz, 57 were protesters and bystanders killed in attacks by security forces and gangs on largely peaceful rallies and 63 were civilians killed in shelling and other attacks during military operations against tribal opposition fighters. At least 22 victims of the attacks in Taizz were children. (…)
(…) The attacks on protesters by Yemeni security forces violated international human rights law, including the right to peaceful assembly and expression, and were contrary to international standards on the use of force and firearms. Denial of medical assistance to injured protesters violated the right to health.
International law governing armed conflict was applicable to the fighting between the security forces and opposition fighters commanded by local sheiks. The security forces violated international law by indiscriminately shelling populated neighborhoods. The security forces’ occupation of hospitals and mistreatment of medical workers violates the principle of medical neutrality and the duty to respect and protect medical facilities and personnel. (…)
(…) Since April, an accord brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and backed by the US and EU, promised Saleh and his aides blanket immunity if the president ceded power. Saleh signed the deal in November and on January 21, 2012, the Yemeni parliament granted immunity to the president and his aides. As a head of state, Saleh also enjoys diplomatic immunity abroad until he formally leaves office on February 21.
In addition to dismissing the immunity law, the US, EU, and GCC member states should encourage the new Yemeni caretaker government to revoke the measure on grounds it violates Yemen’s international legal obligations, Human Rights Watch said. International law does not recognize amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of human rights. (…)
To read the full report, see here.