UN calls for probes into Yemen civilian casualties
GENEVA - The UN rights chief called Tuesday for investigations into the high level of civilian casualties that account for almost half of the 736 deaths recorded in the Yemen conflict.
A Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes on the Huthis and allied rebel forces on March 26 but has so far failed to stop the insurgents' advance.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein underscored the need for all parties to ensure that civilians are not attacked and to probe and punish breaches.
"Such a heavy civilian death toll ought to be a clear indication to all parties to this conflict that there may be serious problems in the conduct of hostilities," he said.
Zeid said attacks on hospitals and on civilians unconnected to the fighting were war crimes.
"Any suspected breach of international law must be urgently investigated with a view to ensuring victims' right to justice and redress and to ensure that such incidents do not recur," he said.
The multi-nation offensive has led to at least 736 deaths up to April 12 and 2,719 injuries, World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.
These figures were based on reports from health facilities, he said, adding that the actual figures would be higher.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN human rights agency, said 364 of the people killed were civilians, including 84 children and 25 women.
"We are in touch with parties on the ground and engaged with the Saudis" on the issue of the high civilian deaths, she said.
Zeid said recent airstrikes had hit residential areas and homes in Amran, Taiz, Ibb, Aljawf and Sa'da and at least 52 public buildings were damaged or destroyed in bombardments or ground shelling in the past three weeks.
"All such attacks need to be thoroughly and transparently investigated by the coalition forces," he said.
According to the United Nations, more than 121,000 people have been displaced from their homes.