U.A.E., Saudis may have committed war crimes in Yemen

Casey GreeneAug 30, 2018

The 41-page report was published Tuesday by the Group Experts, which was mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council to carry out a comprehensive examination of Yemen's human rights crisis.

The report found that at least 6,475 civilians have been killed since the Saudi intervention began in March 2015 but said the "real figure is likely to be significantly higher".

It estimates that there have been 18,000 such strikes in little more than three years, inflicting a level of damage on civilians that "certainly contributed to Yemen's dire economic and humanitarian situation".

The experts faulted in particular the coalition's Joint Incidents Assessment Team, which is supposed to investigate claims of military abuse but which human rights groups say was set up to deflect pressure for an global inquiry into the war.

Since then, fighting has devolved into proxy warfare, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arming and fighting alongside a disparate group of Islamist, tribal and regional militias against the Houthis, who control Sanaa, the capital, as well as the major port of Hodeida and their ancestral territories along the Saudi border.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2014, when Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country.

The U.N. report also accused the Houthi rebels of committing possible war crimes, including arbitrary detention, torture, ill treatment and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mattis said aid to countries conducting operations against Houthi rebels would require that those countries "do everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life and they support the United Nations -brokered peace process".

The Associated Press reported past year that the UAE and its allied militias were running a network of secret detention facilities, beyond the control of the Yemeni government.

As civilian casualties mount, including dozens of children killed in an airstrike that hit a school bus in northern Yemen on August 9, pressure on the coalition has grown from human rights groups, the United Nations and in the USA, where skepticism is mounting over arms and other support for the Saudi-led war.

"For the last several years we have been working with the Saudis and the Emiratis, doing what we can to reduce any chance of innocent people being injured or killed", he said.

Charles Garraway, one of the report's United Kingdom authors, said: "Despite the severity of the situation we continue to see a complete disregard for the people in Yemen".

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday defended the US backing of the Saudi-led coalition, but said it was conditioned on the Saudis doing "everything humanly possible" to avoid civilian casualties. The U.S. has backed the Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore the ousted government.

Yemeni children gather outside their classroom in December 2016, at a school that was recently damaged in a Saudi-led air strike in the country's third-city of Taez.

The report said "If there are errors in the targeting process that effectively remove the protections provided by worldwide humanitarian law, these would amount to violations".

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