Yemen must stop killings of protesters or risk slide into civil war

The Yemeni authorities must immediately stop killings of protesters and other human rights violations by their security forces if the country is not to  descend into further chaos and possible civil war, Amnesty International said today.  Yemeni security forces have reportedly killed dozens of people since Sunday in the southern city of Ta’izz.  Security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and at a makeshift field hospital set up to assist the wounded. They also reportedly arrested scores of protestors and bulldozed or burned down tents at a protest camp they had established, “The political and human rights crisis in Yemen is rapidly going from bad to worse as President Saleh’s security forces seek to crush all opposition,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.    “Right now, Yemen is on a knife-edge. There is growing risk of civil war between President Saleh’s forces and those now demanding change and an end to the repression and violence that have become such a striking hallmark of his efforts to hold on to power.”In recent days, fighting has also erupted in the capital Sana’a after a ceasefire between the government and a local tribal leader broke down, threatening the lives of local residents and bystanders.  The government has also accused al-Qa’ida fighters of seizing control of the city of Zinjibar from the Yemeni army. Dozens of families are reported to have fled the area to seek refuge in the southern city of Aden.“President Saleh must call off his security forces, stop them attacking peaceful protestors and hold them accountable under the law,” said Malcolm Smart. “The international community must also make it clear to the President that the abuses being committed by his forces are totally unacceptable and must cease, and that he and those around him will not be allowed to evade accountability for the serious human rights crimes now being committed under their authority.”