Amnesty International has urged the Yemeni authorities to identify and prosecute members of the security forces responsible for the killings of at least eight anti-government demonstrators over the weekend.
Two protesters were killed and over 1,000 injured in the capital Sana’a on Saturday when security forces opened fire on members of a protest camp during their early morning prayer, while pro-government “thugs” were reported to have attacked ambulances trying to attend to the wounded.
At least six other protesters were killed on Saturday and Sunday after being shot in the cities of Aden and al-Mukalla, bringing the total death toll among protesters since calls for reform in the country began last month to at least 40.
“It is disturbing that Yemeni security forces appear to be targeting protesters in a way that maximizes death and serious injury,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“To strike when protesters are most vulnerable, such as during prayer, and to then prevent medical staff from doing their work shows that the security forces are acting above the law.”
Violence erupted in Sana’a early on Saturday morning when police attacked praying protesters with live bullets, batons and tear gas.
At least 20 people were shot, while “thugs” affiliated to the security forces temporarily stopped ambulances from entering the protest camp, with one vehicle destroyed.
On Saturday and Sunday in Aden and al-Mukalla, at least six people taking part in protests in solidarity with the protesters attacked in Sana’a were killed.
A 14-year-old boy was shot dead by security forces in al-Mukalla. At least five people were killed in the Dar Sa’ad area of Aden.
Activists taking part in the Sana’a protest told Amnesty International that security forces had opened fire without provocation.
“On Friday night we started suspecting that the security forces were preparing to take action against us after they increased their presence in the area. We started chanting ‘It is peaceful, it is peaceful’, but later they attacked us while we were praying,” one student member of the protest camp said.
“The unrest in Yemen shows no signs of abating - rather the weekend’s events indicate that the government’s crackdown on protesters is intensifying,” said Philip Luther.
“The Yemeni authorities must rein in the security forces and hold accountable those responsible for such ruthless policing.”