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HRW report on Yemen: “invisible civilians” in the armed conflict with Huthi rebels

Human Rights Watch publicou hai unhas semanas o informe “Disappearances and Arbitrary Arrests in the Armed Conflict with Huthi Rebels in Yemen”, falando de violacións dos Direitos Humanos no conflicto armado entre as autoridades de Iemen e os rebeldes Huthi.

Hoxe publicaron un novo informe, centrado no castigo colectivo ós civís e nas restriccións ós xornalistas e á axuda humanitaria. Leva por título “Invisible Civilians: The Challenge of Humanitarian Access in Yemen’s Forgotten War”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:

Since June 2004 an armed conflict in northern Yemen all but ignored outside the country has displaced up to 130,000 people, a great many of whom remained out of the reach of humanitarian agencies as of October 2008. Caught between the government and an armed group known as the Huthis, these displaced civilians are among the invisible victims of war.

Particularly since 2007, when international aid agencies sought to reach all parts of the northern Sada governorate, Yemeni authorities have severely restricted humanitarian access to tens of thousands of civilians in need. After a fifth round of fighting erupted in May 2008, the government blocked the movement of all commercial goods, including staple foods and fuel, an act that appears to constitute an illegal collective punishment.

By mid-July 2008, when the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared an end to the fighting, 60,000 displaced persons had found refuge in Sada town, where they received limited assistance in seven camps serviced by national and international aid agencies. However, tens of thousands of others -possibly as many as 70,000 persons- had been displaced in remote areas or urban areas other than Sada town, where government restrictions meant they remained largely inaccessible to aid agencies.

Furthermore, between February 2007 and July 2008 the government imposed a total information blackout on Sada governorate. It has clamped down on media coverage, banning local and international journalists from traveling anywhere in the governorate, threatening journalists covering the conflict, and arbitrarily arresting internet webmasters and others with information on civilian casualties. The government cut off most mobile phone subscribers, allowing only a few government-vetted individuals access to the network.

The result of the governments systematic, sustained, and non-transparent policy of limiting access and information is that tens of thousands of civilians directly affected by the war have been left to suffer, their plight hidden from the rest of Yemen and the outside world. The denial of humanitarian access is in contravention of international humanitarian law that provides that a civilian population is entitled to receive humanitarian relief essential to its survival.

Since the declared end of fighting in July 2008, the government has told international humanitarian agencies that they have full and unrestricted access to the whole of Sada governorate. However, the reality is different. Many agencies must ask separate Interior Ministry permission for each and every trip, an almost impossible operational requirement. By the end of September 2008, the government allowed aid agencies access to a limited number of towns in Sada governorate, but well into October this expanded access was insufficient to reach many of those who have long gone without assistance and who remain at risk.

The governments tight restrictions on access for humanitarian agencies and journalists, even after the conflict was declared over, has meant that only limited information is available on the extent of civilian displacement, the degree of insecurity faced by the population, and the conduct of the fighting. The government asserts that insecurity requires it to broadly restrict humanitarian access but the restrictions themselves have made it difficult to either confirm or challenge this position. However, international humanitarian law is clear: only imperative military necessity can justify restrictions on humanitarian access, and then only strictly temporarily.

The Huthi rebels have also failed to facilitate humanitarian access to areas under their control. […]

19 Novembro 2008 - Posted by | Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Politics, Yemen

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