Yemeni Authorities Must End Use of Lethal Force on Peaceful Protesters

Press Release
February 21, 2013

Yemeni Authorities Must End Use of Lethal Force on Peaceful Protesters

The rights group says this is “yet another bloody stain” on Yemen’s human rights record

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(NEW YORK) – Yemeni security forces have acted in violation of international human rights standards by opening fire on peaceful pro-secession protesters in the south Thursday, resulting in four deaths and dozens of injured, said Amnesty International. The rights group called for an immediate end to the use of force by Yemeni authorities against peaceful protesters and to respect their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Security forces used firearms and tear gas killing two and injuring at least 25, as thousands of supporters of the Southern Movement, which demands peaceful secession from the rest of Yemen, gathered in a non-violent sit-in at Al-‘Aroudh Square in Khormaksar, Aden.

“In utter disregard for international standards, the Yemeni authorities have attempted to quash peaceful protests with shocking use of lethal force,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director. “This is yet another bloody stain on the government’s bleak human rights record.”

In addition to the two killed in the protest, a man from al-Dhal’i was killed and another seriously injured as security forces opened fire to prevent them from entering Aden to join the demonstration.

On Wednesday, one man was killed in al-‘Areesh area in Aden when security forces opened fire on a group of people travelling from Abyan to Aden to take part in today’s protest. Amnesty International has also received reports that firearms were used against protesters in the Crater area of Aden.

One eyewitness told the organization that security forces were acting in support of a counter-march believed to have been organized by the Islah party, a member of the coalition government. The eyewitness described how the security forces had violently dispersed a Southern Movement protest around al-‘Aroudh Square as the counter-protesters occupied the area.

“Not a single person from the Islah march was injured, in fact they were not only protected, but security forces paved the way for them to occupy the square by opening fire on the Southern Movement protesters and dispersing them,” said the eyewitness.

Several Aden residents told Amnesty International that security forces deployed armored vehicles and armed personnel in the city on Wednesday, ahead of the planned protest. One Southern Movement activist said that it was clear security forces were intent on disrupting the demonstration. In anticipation of the protest, a number of people believed to be leaders in the Southern Movement were also arrested Wednesday, in what one activist said was an obvious attempt to derail the protest.

“Prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations must be carried out into all deaths and injuries of protesters in recent days,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “Amnesty International’s warnings to the Yemeni security forces yesterday not to use unnecessary or excessive force against peaceful protesters have fallen on deaf ears.”

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.