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UN Human Rights Officials Demand Probe of Yemen Violations

United Nations human rights investigator Hanny Megally, left, visits anti-government protesters, who were wounded in clashes with Yemeni security forces, in Taiz, Yemen, June 30, 2011.

United Nations human rights officials say six months of protest-related violence in Yemen has killed hundreds of people and injured thousands more. A team of U.N. rights experts on Tuesday called for immediate action to protect demonstrators who are demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

The U.N. team traveled in June and July to the Yemeni cities of Aden, Sana’a and Ta’izz and met government officials, human rights activists and alleged victims of violence.

The mission leader, Hanny Megally, says that in Ta’izz, he and his team witnessed the deployment of tanks and heard small gunfire.

"Essentially, what we were witnessing when we visited was a bit of a stalemate with the level of violence increasing," said Megally.

The U.N. team's visit came after President Saleh's palace in Sana'a was attacked weeks earlier. He remains in Saudi Arabia, recovering from injuries sustained during the incident. He has not returned to Yemen since seeking medical care in Saudi Arabia.

With the country in political limbo and demonstrations against Saleh continuing, the president on Monday authorized his deputy to talk with the opposition in an effort to put an end to the crisis that has gone on for months.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council of Yemen's neighbors initially proposed a plan in April to end the anti-government turmoil in Yemen. Saleh agreed to the proposal three times, but each time backed out before the deal could be signed.

The U.N. mission report accuses Yemeni officials of using excessive force to quell protests against Saleh. It contains allegations of human rights violations committed by government security forces including the killing of civilians, arbitrary detention and torture.

Megally tells VOA the mission was told of a number of instances in which security forces prevented wounded demonstrators from getting to hospitals or turned away doctors or ambulances.

“We visited a number of field hospitals that had been established in some of these sit-in squares where we were told security forces had gone in and ransacked the hospitals," said Megally. "And, we were shown and took pictures of some of these places and heard stories about patients having to be carried out through the back door and taken to other places as security forces came in through the front door, etc.”

The report calls for an international probe into the alleged rights violations.

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