Geneva/Sanaa (ICRC) –A building serving as a detention facility in Yemen was destroyed in an airstrike, killing or injuring every detainee inside when the multi-story facility crumbled.
The facility held around 170 detainees. Forty of those detainees were being treated for injuries; the rest are presumed killed, though no toll has been confirmed.
Yemeni Red Crescent volunteers helped remove bodies from the rubble as heavy machinery arrived onsite to assist. It will likely take several days to locate all the bodies.
A team from the International Committee of the Red Cross travelled to the scene in Dhamar, Yemen. The team, including a forensic specialist, delivered 200 body bags and medical supplies to treat up to 100 critically wounded people.
“Witnessing this massive damage, seeing the bodies lying among the rubble was a real shock. Anger and sadness were natural reactions. People who are not taking active part in combat should not die in such a way,” the head of delegation, Franz Rauchenstein, said after visiting the attack site.
Sunday’s attack is another stark reminder that the rules of war require that only military persons and objects can be targeted by an attack. All possible precautions must be taken to spare civilians and other persons not taking part in hostilities, such as detainees.
“Engaging with the parties on the way they conduct military operations is a vital part of the ICRC’s work. We remind states and other parties of their responsibility in this regard. To see this happen to detainees held in a facility we have visited in the past is shocking. These detainees shall not be and are not forgotten,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC Regional Director for Near and Middle East, said.
The detainees who died in the attack were visited by the ICRC who works around the world to ensure humane conditions of detention through regular visits, meetings with detainees to monitor their conditions and treatment, and by bringing about improvements. The ICRC's findings are discussed confidentially with the concerned authorities.
“The conflict in Yemen is claiming too many civilian victims and others not taking part in hostilities. We need to understand now what exactly happened and how we can support the injured and families of the dead,” Carboni said.