Geneva, Switzerland – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Saturday expressed outrage at the “unconscionable toll” that the escalation of hostilities in Al Hodeidah was taking on an already “deeply frightened and starving” population in Yemen. Bachelet urged the Saudi-led Coalition, the Houthi forces and all those supplying arms to the parties to the conflict to take immediate steps to end the suffering of civilians in Yemen.
“The Saudi-led Coalition and pro-Hadi forces, the Houthi forces – and those who supply arms or other support to the parties to the conflict – all have the power or the influence to stop the starvation and killing of civilians, to give some reprieve to the people of Yemen,” Bachelet said.
“Violations by one party to the conflict do not give carte blanche to the others to fight back at all costs. Even wars are regulated by law – all parties to the conflict are bound to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law as applicable.”
According to information received by the UN Human Rights Office, at least 110 airstrikes were carried out in Al Hodeidah, Sa’ada and San’a between Oct. 31 and Nov. 6, with further intensification since then. Coalition warplanes have been hovering at low altitude in Al Hodeidah City since Thursday morning, as Houthi forces fire anti-aircraft missiles and mortars, and violent street clashes continued. At least 23 civilians have been confirmed dead in Al Hodeidah since Oct. 24, but the real toll may be much higher. Some 445,000 people have been internally displaced in Al Hodeidah since early June.
There are also serious concerns about the fate of 900 detainees in the Central Prison and six pre-trial detention facilities in Al Hodeidah City. The Central Prison was hit on Monday morning by two mortar shells, injuring five people and cutting off power and water to the prison. Armed confrontations are also reportedly taking place very close to the main Al Thawra hospital in Al Hodeidah.
The High Commissioner called for an immediate end to the military escalation, which also risks exacerbating the catastrophic food insecurity of some 14 million people across the country. She urged the Saudi-led Coalition to immediately remove restrictions on the safe and expeditious entry into Yemen of indispensable humanitarian supplies and other goods.
“The parties to the conflict must allow the free, regular and unimpeded passage of food and other humanitarian relief and must not take actions that would deprive civilians of their rights to food and health,” she said.
“I call on all those with involvement or influence in the conflict to facilitate the access to humanitarian relief that the people of Yemen so desperately need.”
“I also remind States that the Geneva Conventions stipulate that all States, including those not involved in the armed conflict, have the obligation to take measures to ensure respect for the Conventions by parties to a conflict. Conditioning, limiting or refusing arms transfers is one measure,” Bachelet added.
The UN Human Rights Office has documented that between March 26, 2015 and Nov. 8, 2018, there have been a total of 17,640 civilian casualties in Yemen, including 6,872 dead and 10,768 injured. The majority of these casualties – 10,852 resulted from airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led Coalition.