United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Tuerk is calling for a resumption of a U.N.-mediated truce in Yemen. The truce expired just over a month ago, resulting in a sharp rise in civilian casualties.
In a statement, Tuerk said he deplores the uptick in fighting and the loss of life since Yemen’s warring parties failed to extend the six-month cease-fire, which expired October 2. He urged the parties to negotiate an end to the devastating conflict.
U.N. Human Rights spokesperson Jeremy Laurence said the Houthi Ansar Allah forces in Yemen are largely to blame for the reported loss of life and injuries.
Laurence said it is difficult to confirm the number of civilian casualties, but his office has verified three incidents of shelling by the Iranian-backed rebels in the government-controlled territory, as well as three incidents of sniper shootings.
He called this regrettable, given that the U.N.-mediated truce clearly was working and that, by and large, parties observed the cease-fire.
“We did notice that there was a sharp decline in casualties, that displaced people were able to access vital food and other materials for their well-being,” he said.
The outbreak of war more than eight years ago plunged Yemen into what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The U.N. reports more than 350,000 people have died from direct and indirect causes of the war.
It says nearly 6 million people have been displaced and an estimated 24 million need humanitarian aid to survive.
Under international humanitarian law, Laurence said parties to the conflict must allow civilians to access humanitarian and life-saving services.
“Furthermore, the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian objects is prohibited by international law and constitutes a war crime,” he said. “Any such attacks must immediately cease, and the relevant authorities should investigate such incidents and hold those responsible to account.”
Laurence said the suffering of the Yemeni people will continue until the conflict ends.
He said U.N. rights chief Tuerk echoes the U.N. secretary-general’s call to the warring parties and their international backers to “choose peace for good.”