(New York) - The Yemeni government should bring to justice the armed men who attacked a guard providing security at a local human rights organization, Human Rights Watch said today. 

The attack raised broader concerns for the security of human rights defenders at this critical time, Human Rights Watch said.

At 2 a.m. on February 24, 2011, five assailants armed with sticks and daggers repeatedly stabbed a guard at the Sanaa offices of the Yemen Observatory for Human Rights (YOHR), seriously injuring him, the group's director, Muhammed al-Mikhlafi, told Human Rights Watch. Members of the group, which has been collecting data on casualties resulting from the daily anti-government protests since February 11, 2011, received threatening phone calls in days prior to the attack.

"The Yemeni government should bring the attackers on a human rights group to justice," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities need to send a message that work of rights defenders will be respected."

Armed pro-government provocateurs have repeatedly assaulted anti-government demonstrators over the past 10 days while security forces failed to intervene, and even facilitated such attacks.

The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders provides that countries should "take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action" as a result of their participation in human rights activity.

Human Rights Watch urged President Ali Abdullah Saleh to respect the internationally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and association, and called on the authorities to bring to justice those who threaten or attack civil society groups, media, and peaceful protesters.