UN rights chief calls for probe into Yemen abuses

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The UN human rights chief called Tuesday for an international independent probe into violations in Yemen's unrest which have left hundreds dead and thousands injured across the country.

In a report to be discussed by the UN Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay asked the world community to "ensure that international independent and impartial investigations are conducted into incidents which resulted in heavy loss of life and injuries."

The report, which summarises findings of a mission dispatched by Pillay to Yemen from June 28 to July 6, said that a "wide range of human rights violations and abuses have allegedly taken place throughout the country."

"Many of these allegations concern excessive use of force against largely peaceful protesters by government security forces and their affiliates," it said.

"Yet others concern clashes involving different combinations of pro and anti government protesters, armed tribesmen, armed Islamists and, or government security forces, some of which were defectors."

The report did not give a detailed death toll, but said that "hundreds have been killed and thousands have suffered injuries including loss of limbs."

During meetings in Sanaa, Taez and Aden, the mission heard from witnesses who claimed that gunmen in uniform or plain clothes were on buildings or at street level "to target protesters marching to or protesting outside public buildings with live ammunition."

When unarmed protesters were attacked by armed men in plain clothes, police stood by without reacting, added the report.

Calling for restraint from both sides, the report warned of the "danger that the protests might become violent in response to the excessive use of lethal force by the government and the growing involvement of, and intimidation by, armed elements within the demonstrations."

Hanny Megally, who heads the UN human rights office's Asia-Pacific, Middle East and North Africa branch, warned that "clearly, the country is teetering on the brink of civil war."

"The international community needs to speed up pressure because you have a situation where everyday people are being killed or injured, frustrations are growing and people don't see the light at the end of the tunnel because there still is a stalemate and nobody is willing to take a step forward," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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