UN Team of Experts Says Saudi-led Coalition Guilty of War Crimes in Yemen
The UN team of experts, which has been appointed by the Human Rights Council, confirmed that coalition raids in Yemen hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, prisons, fishing boats and even medical facilities, causing civilian casualties.
The Arab Organization for Monitoring Rights (Arwa) said in a statement that the experts’ report included conclusions and recommendations after it has looked at the violations in Yemen that go against the international human rights law and other international laws.
The report referred to the appalling violations against humanity, the deprivation of the right of living, arbitrary detention, rape, torture, ill-treatment, kidnapping, child recruitment; violations against free expressions and economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health, where the aforementioned violations were mostly committed by the Saudi-UAE coalition.
The organization noted that the experts’ report stated that it had different kinds of reasons to believe that individuals from the government of the exiled president, Hadi, as well as individuals in the coalition, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, carried out attacks on civilians in violation of the principles of discrimination, proportionality and precautions that could amount to war crimes.
According to the organization, the team reviewed 60 incidents in which air strikes on residential areas killed more than 500 civilians, including 84 women and 233 children. In addition, it reviewed 29 more incidents, where air strikes were conducted in public places and areas crowded with civilians, where the experts concluded the deaths of more than 300 civilians.
Moreover, the experts also reviewed 11 incidents involving air strikes on markets that killed hundreds of civilians as well as four raids on detention facilities since the conflict began, which resulted in the killing of more than 105 civilians, most of whom were detained.
Meanwhile, 11 airstrikes targeted fishermen boats off Hodeidadh cost, which were founded by the team, and about 40 fishermen were killed or disappeared, the team said. Additionally, 32 cases were reviewed, where medical facilities, as well as educational, cultural and religious sites, were destroyed by air strikes throughout the war.
The organization noted that the number of civilian casualties led to the Panel’s skepticism about the nature and effectiveness of any assessment of proportionality and the nature and effectiveness of any precautionary measures adopted because of the timing of some attacks and weapons used.
According to the panel of experts, the coalition has imposed strict sea and air restrictions in Yemen to varying degrees since March 2015.
The Arab Organization for Monitoring Rights noted that the Group of Experts confirmed the organization’s observation and that even with the United Nations verification and inspection mechanism, the Coalition maintained an additional inspection and continued to prevent the entry of ships with arbitrary measures, which has affected trade and economy.
“Despite the fact that the coalition and the government of Hadi-in-exile received adequate notification of the harm caused by the restrictions and their responsibility, although they had ample opportunity to rectify the situation, the suffering of civilians in Yemen did not receive any reaction from them in the cancellation or suspension of restrictions as it is required under international law, stressing that no possible military advantage can justify such persistent and extreme suffering to 17.8 million people.
WHO also noted that one of the missing statistics in the Expert Report, which represents the number of child deaths due to preventable diseases related to malnutrition, cannot be remedied by the blockade on food, medicines and fuel needed to operate health facilities.
The Group of Experts acknowledged that the suffering caused by these restrictions had been exacerbated by the Government’s failure to pay the salaries of the public sector employees since August 2016, affecting a quarter of the population amounted to 7.5 million.
According to the report, the Coalition has committed additional acts that may also amount to war crimes, including enforced disappearances, cruel treatment, torture, assault on personal dignity, rape and the recruitment of children under the age of 15 or their active participation in hostilities.
The Panel of Experts also investigated the sexual violence, including the rape of adult detainees, women and children abducted by individuals from the UAE and its established forces dubbed the security belt.
(International law defines the blockade as a declared, effective and neutral mechanism aimed at preventing the arrival of any shipment regardless of the type of shipment or direction. According to the Panel of Experts, maritime restrictions on the arrival of shipments of foodstuffs, medicines and oil derivatives to Yemen can not be considered a blockade except in November 2017 and the closure of Sana’a Airport.
In this regard, the organization pointed out that the blockade is generally applicable to international armed conflict. The report also considers Yemen in a state of non-international armed conflict, this is why the report relies on the terms “actual blockade” to describe coalition operations restricting access to Yemen. Under international law, this does not detract from the illegality of the naval and air restrictions imposed by the Alliance.
The organization also pointed out the other consequences and the most important of which is the description of the war on Yemen as a non-international armed conflict, making the conflict completely domestic, and ignoring the fact that the foreign forces at the leadership of the coalition are the ones who declared war against Yemen and were the ones operating on the ground, air and waters of Yemen. It also ignores the fact that the rule of Hadi’s government had expired before the war began.
The organization stressed that despite this classification and its consequences, the human rights violations described in the report are so brutal that they rise to the level of war crimes, and that these violations are just a tip of the iceberg because the Panel of Experts had only six months to review and investigate the allegations, and had requested the extension of its term.
“Although the decision to appoint the eminent panel of experts was a step in the right direction, as reported by the Arab Organization for Monitoring Rights, it falls short of the standards of accountability that can only be achieved by establishing an independent international commission of inquiry and transferring the case to the criminal court or to bring a case before a national court of competent jurisdiction,” the organization added.
“Given the findings of the report – because of the horrendous crimes that continue even with the expert group investigations – a longer wait would allow for impunity and more crimes against innocent people in Yemen,” the organization confirmed.