UAE, Saudis may have committed war crimes in Yemen: UN Experts

A new United Nations human rights report issued Tuesday on the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen has found that the invading coalition caused heavy civilian casualties, and committed violations that "may amount to war crimes".

The 41-page report from the so-called Group of Experts, established by the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, cataloged acts of violence that occurred between September 2014 and June 2018.

The conflict has resulted in at least 16,700 casualties, including 6,475 civilians killed, but the real figure is nearly certainly significantly higher, according to the United Nations.

The trio have also chronicled the damages from coalition air strikes, the single most lethal force in the fighting, over the past year.

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.

The report, for example, alleged the coalition's effective closure of the airport in San'a led to the death of the founder of Yemen's Red Crescent Society past year because he wasn't able to travel overseas for lifesaving treatment.

Mohammed Albukhaiti, a Houthi political official, criticized the report, saying it equated the "intentional crimes" against civilians by the coalition with "mistakes" made by the rebels.

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But the panel, headed by Tunisian expert Kamel Jendoubi, neither specifically referred to the United States and Britain, which provide arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led alliance, nor did it point a finger at Iranian support for the Houthis.

The report outlined arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and torture, as well as violations of freedom of expression.

The US may withdraw or limit its support of the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, over the military alliance's abysmal record of civilian casualties.

Continued military support to nations engaged in the war in Yemen will depend on the extent of their efforts to avoid civilian casualties, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday, as pressure builds on Saudi Arabia and its allies to protect noncombatants.

Sixty coalition attacks on residential areas reviewed by the experts killed more than 500 civilians, including 233 children, they said. Strikes that fail to spare people or structures protected by global humanitarian law would be unlawful violations. "Our conduct there is to try to keep the human cost of innocents being killed accidentally to an absolute minimum".

Thousands of Yemenis vented anger against Riyadh and Washington at a mass funeral in the northern Yemeni city of Saada for children killed in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition early in August. Mattis said USA support for aerial refueling and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition "is not unconditional".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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