Apr 6, 2011
Cairo/ Sana'a - Amnesty International accused the Yemen authorities of using 'grossly excessive' force on anti-government protesters and urged for an external investigation into the attacks, in a report released Wednesday.
The London-based rights group said that nearly 100 people have been killed since the start of the year when protests erupted against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's near 32-year rule.
The 40-page report, titled Moment of Truth for Yemen, accused authorities in Yemen of acting with 'a reckless disregard for human life' and of continuing a 'cycle of impunity'.
Over half of the nearly 100 people were killed on March 18 or 'Bloody Friday' as protesters now call it, when after Friday prayers snipers atop buildings began shooting at protesters who were gathered in the capital Sana'a.
'The shooting started from different buildings around the same time and continued for more than 30 minutes,' said one eyewitness quoted in the report.
Most of those killed were shot in the head, chest or neck, with many of them dying at the scene.
'This attack appears to have been coordinated by security forces deliberately shooting to kill protesters from strategic vantage points,' according to Amnesty.
The report described the response of the authorities to such attacks as 'woefully inadequate', adding that no judicial proceedings against members of the security forces linked to the crackdown have been carried out.
Amnesty also slammed Yemen for the arrest of hundreds of opposition activists, continued crackdowns on journalists and the use torture and even deaths of detainees at the hands of security.
In another incident in the capital in Taghyeer Square, near Sana'a University, people were fired upon while performing traditional Muslim dawn prayers on March 12.
'We started chanting 'It's peaceful, it's peaceful', but later they attacked us while we were praying,' a student was quoted in the report as saying.
One of the most disturbing incidents, said Amnesty, was when security forces refused to allow residents to take the injured to hospital after government forces fired on protesters and bystanders in the southern province of Aden in February.
Amnesty said that security forces - some wearing uniform, others plain clothes - have reportedly used US-made tear gas, live ammunition, rubber bullets, US-made rubber grenades, riot guns, and electroshock batons to violently repress the protesters.
Meanwhile, hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilians have been killed since 2004 in unrest in the north of Yemen against the Houthi tribe, made of up Shiites, said the report.
Amnesty also strongly condemned attacks on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula that killed bystanders and attacks by the Yemen-based terrorist group on civilians.
The rights group called on the government in Sana'a to cease attacks on peaceful protesters and make public its findings into the attacks.
It also called on the international community to immediately suspend the supply and transfer of weapons and munitions to security forces in Yemen.