UN Demands Inquiry into Funeral Attack in Yemen

In many areas of Yemen, devastated by conflict, ongoing insecurity hampers WFP’s efforts to get food to the people in need. Photo: WFP / Ammar Bamatraf
In many areas of Yemen, devastated by conflict, ongoing insecurity hampers WFP’s efforts to get food to the people in need. Photo: WFP / Ammar Bamatraf

Describing the attack on a funeral in Sana’a on Saturday as “outrageous,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday demanded an inquiry.

He reiterated his urgent call for an independent, international inquiry into alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Yemen.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition supporting the legitimate government in Yemen announced Saturday that it will immediately investigate the deadly bombing of the Great Hall in Sana’a during a funeral on Saturday.

Reports suggest that the coalition warplanes attacked a funeral at a community hall in the Yemen capital Sana’a and killed over 140 mourners while more than 500 got injured in the bombing. The Saudi coalition has denied any role in the attack.

“Since the beginning of this conflict in Yemen, weddings, marketplaces, hospitals, schools – and now mourners at a funeral – have been hit, resulting in massive civilian casualties and zero accountability for those responsible,” the High Commissioner said.

According to eyewitness testimony, hospital records and other information gathered by UN Human Rights staff, two airstrikes, about seven to eight minutes apart, hit the packed Al Kubra hall in Sana’a on Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of people were gathered at the well-known community hall for the funeral of the father of a senior official. It is unclear how many people were present but the hall has a capacity of up to 1,000 people.

Witnesses described a hall packed with families, including children. A large number of political and military leaders affiliated with the Houthis and former president Saleh were among those present, and many were killed.

“The international community has a legal and moral duty to react robustly to the increasingly horrific levels of civilian casualties in Yemen, just as it has in many other situations,” Zeid said.

In total, since March 2015, at least 4,125 civilians have been killed and 7,207 injured in Yemen. The number of casualties has risen dramatically since the collapse of the cessation of hostilities agreement in August.

During September 2016, 379 civilians were killed and injured. Already, in just the first ten days of October, the rate has tripled – with 369 civilian casualties. High Commissioner Zeid expressed serious concern that this latest incident could lead to a further escalation of hostilities and another steep increase in civilian casualties.

Zeid also called on all States contributing to the conduct of hostilities in Yemen in any way to seriously reconsider their support to the parties to the conflict. He urged all sides to resume dialogue and to work towards a sustainable ceasefire.

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Rakesh Raman