GENEVA October 10, 2016 – Describing the attack on a funeral in Sana’a on Saturday as “outrageous”, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday reiterated his urgent call for an independent, international inquiry into alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the country.
“Since the beginning of this conflict in Yemen, weddings, marketplaces, hospitals, schools – and now mourners at a funeral – have been hit, resulting in massive civilian casualties and zero accountability for those responsible,” the High Commissioner said. “This deadly attack comes just weeks after the UN Human Rights Council, for the second year in a row, dismissed my call to take decisive action to create an international, independent investigative body to look into extremely serious alleged violations of international law, including possible war crimes, in Yemen. The Human Rights Council’s inability to take decisive action by setting up an international investigation is contributing to a climate of impunity, and violations continue to occur on a regular basis. Such outrageous attacks cannot be allowed to continue.”
According to eyewitness testimony, hospital records and other information gathered by UN Human Rights staff, two airstrikes, about seven to eight minutes apart, hit the packed Al Kubra hall in Sana’a on Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of people were gathered at the well-known community hall for the funeral of the father of a senior official. It is unclear how many people were present but the hall has a capacity of up to 1,000 people. Witnesses described a hall packed with families, including children. A large number of political and military leaders affiliated with the Houthis and former president Saleh were among those present, and many were killed.
“The international community has a legal and moral duty to react robustly to the increasingly horrific levels of civilian casualties in Yemen, just as it has in many other situations,” Zeid said. “We take note of the recent letter sent by Saudi Arabia to the Security Council indicating its readiness to take corrective and appropriate measures to ensure accountability, including the release of the results of the ongoing investigations into this incident, in the near future.”
In total, since March 2015, at least 4,125 civilians have been killed and 7,207 injured in Yemen. The number of casualties has risen dramatically since the collapse of the cessation of hostilities agreement in August. During September 2016, 379 civilians were killed and injured. Already, in just the first ten days of October, the rate has tripled – with 369 civilian casualties. High Commissioner Zeid expressed serious concern that this latest incident could lead to a further escalation of hostilities and another steep increase in civilian casualties.
High Commissioner Zeid also called on all States contributing to the conduct of hostilities in Yemen in any way to seriously reconsider their support to the parties to the conflict. He urged all sides to resume dialogue and to work towards a sustainable ceasefire.