Yemen: Loyalists 'holding doctors at gunpoint, terrorising medical staff'

Yemen: Loyalists 'holding doctors at gunpoint, terrorising medical staff'
2 min read
24 November, 2016
Pro-Hadi government armed forces are swarming hospitals and demanding their own soldiers are treated immediately, Amnesty International has claimed
Anti-Houthi fighters in Yemen's southern city of Taiz are forcing doctors to work at gunpoint and terrorising hospital staff, Amnesty International has said.

The human rights group has accused pro-government troops of storming hospitals demanding their own wounded are treated immediately and threatening to kill staff.

Al-Thawra, the biggest hospital in Taiz, was raided and shut down on Monday, Amnesty researchers found, apparently in retaliation for staff treating three injured Houthi fighters.

"There is compelling evidence to suggest that anti-Houthi forces have waged a campaign of fear and intimidation against medical professionals in Taiz," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"There can be no excuse for harassing medical staff or preventing doctors from carrying out their life-saving work. Attacks targeting health professionals or medical facilities are prohibited by international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes."

According to eyewitnesses, three armed men stormed an office at the hospital and threatened to kill medical staff if it was not shut down immediately.

They also tried to drag the two surviving Houthi fighters out of intensive care and recovery units, but were prevented by medical staff. The hospital is now only partially functioning, providing only limited emergency services and dialysis, despite a week of bloody clashes in the contested city.

Confiscated equipment

Staff at al-Thawra hospital also said that anti-Houthi forces diverted electricity for their own personal use, disrupting power to crucial services.

In other instances armed fighters have demanded medicines and supplies, and confiscated equipment from hospitals.

Amnesty researchers also found the fighters had set up military positions near medical facilities, endangering civilians.

Al-Thawra's director said the hospital guards were unable to stand up to them, adding: "There are dozens of armed men in the hospital. Am I running a hospital or a battalion? The armed men will create any problem with you outside the hospital if you refuse them."

"Hundreds of times [anti-Houthi fighters] threatened us and interfered with the hospital's administration and our decision-making. When we stand up to them, they threaten us with being killed," said an administrative worker who was detained by gunmen.

Bombing campaign

The armed militia, also known as popular resistance committees, are allied with exiled former leader Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and with the US-backed, Saudi-led coalition that has been waging a bombing campaign in the country since March 2015.

Under international humanitarian law, medical facilities should have special protection from attacks and should not be used for military purposes or targeted by parties to the conflict.

Amnesty is calling on the Yemeni authorities to enhance security at medical facilities and protect staff and patients from attack.