Protests in Yemen could lead to war, warns UN human rights agency

child refugee in Yemen

child refugee in Yemen

A country on the brink of war.

That's what Yemen has been described as, as fighting escalates between government forces and tribal groups.

The conflict in Yemen is part of what some have called an "Arab Spring" – a wave of protests and demonstrations against corruption, unemployment and ill treatment in the Middle East and North Africa that began in late 2010 and continues to this day.

Gerry Adams reports.

The dangerous escalation of violence in Yemen over the past few days has been alarming, says UN human rights agency spokesman Rupert Colville, especially since the Government and the opposition were close to an agreement.

Colville 1: We've received reports of dozens of civilian casualties, including women and children, during the fighting over the past few days. And we are trying to confirm those reports.

Protests in Yemen were initially against unemployment, economic conditions[1] and corruption,[2] as well as against the government’s proposals to modify Yemen’s constitution. The protestors’ demands then escalated to calls for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

According to the United Nations, the death toll has reportedly approached 100 since fighting began Monday after Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, refused for a third time to sign a deal to transfer power.

There are also reports of shelling by Government troops in residential areas, says Mr. Colville.

Colville 2: We're deeply concerned that the Government may be pushing the country to the brink of civil war. We call on the Government to stop the excessive and disproportionate use of force against peaceful demonstrations, which have been continuing, and to stop targeting activists and human rights defenders and journalists and to seriously investigate all allegations of crimes committed by security forces.

In a statement from his Spokesman, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the parties to resolve the crisis.

Nesirky: The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the violent clashes in the centre of Sana’a between the security forces of the Government and armed tribesmen that have left many people dead and wounded. He is concerned that this confrontation might further destabilize the situation and calls for an immediate end to the fighting. The Secretary-General strongly urges all sides to continue efforts aimed at finding a peaceful resolution of Yemen’s political crisis. [25 May]

Meanwhile there has been some contact between the Office of the United Nations human rights office and the Yemini Government, says Rupert Colville.

Colville 3: The Government of Yemen has extended an invitation to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a mission at the end of June. But we are seeking access earlier than that and we are continuing discussions with the Government on the terms of reference of that mission.

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