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UN Human Rights Council: Yemen's Human Rights Situation; and the OHCHR Report on South Sudan

Oral Statement Under Item 10

In Yemen, the transitional government has taken several bold and positive steps. Nevertheless, human rights violations continue and efforts to implement a United Nations-facilitated blueprint for the two-year political transition period have at times met with violent resistance from supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi's signing last week of a decree to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations stemming from the 2011 uprising is a crucial step toward accountability. We urge the Yemeni authorities to swiftly establish an independent and impartial committee that begins work without delay and respects international due-process standards. However, the commission should not become a substitute for prosecutions of those responsible, which remain a vital component of justice.

While security forces have released hundreds of political prisoners since November 2011, Human Rights Watch continues to receive credible reports that the government and opposition armed groups in Yemen are still unlawfully detaining an unknown number of protesters and fighters from rival forces. Human Rights Watch is also concerned by continual credible reports of child soldier recruitment by all sides, including Islamist armed groups and pro-government forces in southern Abyan province. Finally, Human Rights Watch remains gravely concerned about the lack of accountability surrounding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and other airstrikes in US-backed military operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and allied forces in provinces including Abyan.

The government of Yemen’s cooperation thus far in allowing the establishment in Sanaa of a country office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been very positive. Human Rights Watch calls on the Human Rights Council to renew its engagement with the government of Yemen and welcomes the draft resolution that focuses on efforts for accountability for past abuses, protection of children and addressing arbitrary detention.

Human Rights Watch welcomes the report of the OHCHR on South Sudan. As a new nation-state, the country has faced a number of human rights challenges. Inter-communal fighting has killed hundreds in 2012. Across the country, security forces fail to prevent violence, and have themselves been responsible for unlawful killings, torture, and looting of property. South Sudan's prison population contains many who are arbitrarily, and unlawfully,detained. The lack of capacity and insufficient training among police, prosecutors, and court officials gives rise to human rights violations in other areas of the administration of justice. Women and girls may be victims of forced or early marriage and domestic violence, and such abuses often occur with impunity. South Sudan’s leaders have stated their commitment to ratify major human rights treaties, but have yet to do so.

Human Rights Watch calls on the Human Rights Council, along with the government of South Sudan, to establish an independent expert on human rights in South Sudan.The Expert’s mandate should follow up on the assessment carried out by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, assist and advise the government of South Sudan and other actors in the implementation of the recommendations contained in OHCHR’s report. The expert would also report back to the Council on human rights developments in the country, in particular progress made and remaining challenges, including those requiring further assistance and support by the international community.

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