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BRIEFING NOTES: (1) Sudan; (2) Yemen

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani

Location: Geneva

Date: 18 January 2022

Subject: (1) Sudan

(2) Yemen

1) Sudan

The human rights situation in Sudan continues to be of serious concern, with peaceful protesters killed or injured on a near-daily basis by security forces, as well as a clampdown on critics of the authorities and on independent journalists.

Credible statistics from the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors show that 71 people have been killed and more than 2,200 injured by State security forces during protests since the 25 October 2021 coup d’etat. Of these, 17 were killed just since the beginning of this year. Yesterday alone, security forces brutally dispersed demonstrators in Khartoum, resulting in the killing of seven and injury of dozens of protesters by live ammunition.

Our Joint Human Rights Office in Sudan has also noted a pattern demonstrating that more than 25 per cent of those injured were hit directly by teargas canisters. This raises concerns that security forces are firing teargas canisters horizontally, directed at individuals, in violation of international standards.

We repeat our call on the Sudanese authorities to immediately cease the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force – including the use of live ammunition – against peaceful protesters. The use of live ammunition is only permissible as a measure strictly of last resort in case of an imminent threat to life or of serious injury. There need to be thorough, prompt, independent investigations and the authorities have a duty to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are brought to justice.

A campaign of arbitrary arrest and detention against protesters, journalists and media workers continues amid the state of emergency, with security forces breaking into activists’ homes, and even entering hospitals to arrest wounded protesters, preventing them from accessing emergency care. There are also disturbing reports of assaults against healthcare workers and facilities.

The clampdown on freedom of opinion and expression also appears to be increasing through arrests of journalists, home and office raids and searches, ill treatment of journalists and suspension of licences. At least eight journalists have been ill-treated by security forces while covering protests.

On Saturday, 15 January, the broadcasting licence of Aljazeera Live – the Arabic-language live news and events channel that is part of the Aljazeera Media Network – was revoked. On 13 January, Sudanese armed forces reportedly entered the office of Al Araby Television in Khartoum, arbitrarily arresting four of its staff while they were covering a protest from the rooftop of the building. On 30 December, police and joint security forces including Rapid Support Forces stormed the offices of AlArabiyah and AlHadath Television channels in Khartoum while they were covering protest marches in Khartoum. During the raid, they beat and harassed staff with batons and damaged office property.

We call on the Sudanese authorities to stop targeting journalists, to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully respected, that peaceful protests are facilitated rather than met with unnecessary and disproprotionate force. Journalists and media organizations should be able to go about their crucial work freely and safe from any harassment and intimidation.

As the High Commissioner for Human Rights has stressed, meaningful, inclusive, participatory dialogue is urgently needed to ensure a swift return to civilian rule in Sudan. The people of Sudan must be able to participate in shaping the future of the country.

2) Yemen

We are deeply concerned by the continuing escalation of the conflict in Yemen. Overnight, air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on the capital, Sanaa, are reported to have left at least five civilians dead. According to preliminary information, those killed were five members of the same family, including two women and a child, when a house was hit in Ma’in district of the city at around 21.25. Two other women and a child were reported to have been injured.

The latest airstrikes followed missile and drone attacks claimed by Ansar Allah forces (also known as ‘Houthis’) on the United Arab Emirates, which is a coalition partner, on Monday. These attacks on Abu Dhabi’s International airport and a nearby industrial area were reported to have left three civilians dead.

2022 had already seen the conflict intensify. The year began with a large counter-offensive by Government forces against Ansar Allah in Shabwah Governorate to the south-west of Marib, with the fighting now pushing further into Marib and Al Baydah Governorates. In recent days, there have been dozens of airstrikes and artillery strikes launched by the parties with seemingly little regard for civilians.

The fighting has damaged civilian objects and critical infrastructure, including telecommunication towers and water reservoirs, as well as hospitals in Sana'a and Taizz. With frontlines shifting rapidly over large areas, civilians are also exposed to the constant threat of landmines.

Among recent attacks, between 9 to 11 January, three telecommunications towers were destroyed by Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes in Sa’ada Governorate. On 11 January, Coalition airstrikes destroyed a main water reservoir in Sahar district, also in Sa’ada Governorate, disrupting water supplies for more than 130,000 people.

On 13 January, airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition injured four civilians and partially damaged the emergency and in-patient departments of a hospital in Al Sawad area, Sanhan district, Sana'a Governorate. It was reported that the airstrikes targeted a military camp, which is located close to the hospital. On 1 July 2020, airstrikes destroyed the hospital's medical supply warehouse and severely damaged the building.

On 15 January, two missiles fired by Ansar Allah forces positioned in the north of Taizz City struck and damaged Al Thawra Public Hospital, Taizz City. Three others missiles reportedly struck a neighbourhood adjacent to the hospital, injuring two civilians.

Figures collected by the UN Human Rights Office indicate that, so far in January, there were 839 airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, compared with 1,074 for the whole of December. There were some 16 drone strikes, and 12 ballistic missiles and three other projectiles fired by Ansar Allah forces towards Saudi territory in December. To date in January, reports indicate there have been 10 drone strikes towards Saudi Arabia.

Amid this escalation, we call on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects, in line with their obligations under international law. Any attack, including airstrikes should fully respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. In particular, parties to the conflict must take all feasible measure to verify that targets are indeed military objectives and suspend an attack if it becomes apparent that the target is not a military objective or that the attack would be disproportionate. Failure to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality could amount to war crimes.

We echo calls by the Secretary-General to all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalation. As has been shown time and time again, there is no military solution to the conflict in Yemen.

© Scoop Media

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