Displaced Yemeni children sit inside a tent at a make-shift camp for displaced people in the Haradh area, in the northern Abys district of Yemen. (Photo by AFP)
Activists campaigning to stop British arms sales to Saudi Arabia to prevent their use in Yemen have been granted an appeal against a High Court ruling allowing the UK to continue selling weapons to Riyadh.
Last July, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) sought a High Court order to block export licenses for British-made fighter jets, bombs and other munitions it said were being used by Saudi forces in the war in Yemen. However, the court decided that the licenses were not unlawful.
Responding to the attempt by CAAT to overturn last summer’s verdict, the Court of Appeal said Friday the British government should “not grant a license if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”
Campaigners will now be able to challenge the High Court decision that the government had not acted unlawfully or irrationally in refusing to block export licenses for sale and transfer of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia.
An activist with CAAT said his group believed the arms sales are immoral.
“The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has killed thousands of people and created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world,” Andrew Smith said after Friday’s judgment.
“Despite this, the Saudi regime has been armed and supported every step of the way by successive UK governments. We believe that these arms sales are immoral, and are confident that the Court of Appeal will agree that they are unlawful.”
Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a war on Yemen in March 2015 to reinstall its former Riyadh-allied government. The military aggression has so far killed over 13,600 Yemenis.
The issue of Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and its support for the Saudi aggression in Yemen, has become more controversial as the war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The conflict has displaced more than 2 million people and caused a cholera epidemic that has infected about 1 million people. The United Nations says food shortages have created the world’s worst famine in Yemen.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has defended her government’s weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, saying all such sales are strictly regulated.
The issue has provoked heated debate in parliament, with the main opposition Labour Party accusing the government of being complicit in civilian deaths in Yemen.
“It cannot be right that the government is colluding in what the United Nations says is evidence of war crimes,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told parliament in March.
Britain sells billions of pounds worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, by far its largest weapons buyer. There was a sharp increase last year in licenses that critics such as shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry described as being completed “behind closed doors, and shrouded in secrecy.”
The UK Department for International Trade said it would defend last July’s High Court verdict.
L’Arabia Saudita mantiene un blocco mediatico tale che i giornalisti non possono documentare le atrocità commesse nello Yemen con la complicità statunitense.
Le immagini come quelle che accompagnano l’articolo pubblicato martedì scorso sul quotidiano statunitense ‘The New York Times’, scritto da Nicholas Kristof non appaiono sugli schermi televisivi e raramente nei quotidiani occidentali, in parte perché l’Arabia Saudita blocca con successo l’accesso di giornalisti stranieri nello Yemen.
Il giornalista Nicholas Kristof nel suo articolo pubblicato ha denunciato di aver cercato per quasi un anno di raggiungere aree devastate dagli attacchi sauditi nello Yemen senza successo perché il regime saudita lo ha impedito.
Kristof ha poi riferito che l’unico modo per accedere alle aree dello Yemen soggetto a continue attacchi aerei è attraverso voli charter organizzati dalle Nazioni Unite e gruppi umanitari, in quanto i voli commerciali sono vietati.
Tuttavia, gli aerei militari sauditi controllano questo spazio aereo e vietano qualsiasi volo dove c’è un giornalista a bordo. L’ONU “non sta assumendo rischi” e considera questo divieto di imbarcare i giornalisti molto seriamente, ha raccontato il giornalista.
“Ciò è pazzesco: l&# 39;Arabia Saudita obbliga le Nazioni Unite ad escludere i giornalisti per evitare la copertura delle atrocità saudita”, ha spiegato Kristof.
L’autore dell’articolo ha sottolineato che il governo saudita commette crimini di guerra nello Yemen con le complicità statunitensi e del Regno Unito.
I Sauditi regolarmente bombardano i civili e, peggio ancora, hanno chiuso lo spazio aereo e hanno imposto un blocco per sottomettere la popolazione yemenita. Ciò significa che i civili dello Yemen, compresi i bambini, se non muoiono nei bombardamenti, li fanno morire alla fame. Kristof ha citato il caso di Buthaina, una ragazza di 4 o 5 anni che è stata l’unica della sua famiglia che è riuscita a sopravvivere ad un attacco saudita.
Secondo Kristof gli statunitensi devono fermare tutti i trasferimenti di armi in Arabia Saudita finché non finisce il blocco e il bombardamento del regno contro lo Yemen.
Uno degli effetti devastanti di questa aggressione è la peggiore epidemia globale del colera che è scoppiata in Yemen, dove molte persone sono malnutrite. Ogni giorno 5000 yemeniti contraggono il colera.
Sempre più devastanti gli effetti dell’aggressione saudita sostenuta dagli USA contro il paese più povero del mediterraneo orientale. L’Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità (OMS) e l’UNICEF hanno lanciato l’allarme sulla grave situazione sanitaria nello Yemen, affetto da una terribile epidemia di colera.
Dalla fine di aprile, lo Yemen è immerso in una grave crisi umanitaria e sanitaria a causa della seconda epidemia di colera che colpisce il paese da meno di un anno.
Secondo l’Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità, OMS, circa 570 persone sono morte di colera, mentre il numero di potenziali pazienti è aumentato a 70.000.
Il portavoce dell’OMS, Tarik Jasarevic ha dichiarato che stanno cercando di aumentare la loro risposta all’epidemia con 150 mila vaccini per via endovenosa, una trentina di nuovi centri per il trattamento della diarrea e con 67 tonnellate di materiale medico.Inoltre, ha chiesto l’aiuto internazionale per affrontare questa emergenza.
Inoltre, il Fondo delle Nazioni Unite per l’Infanzia, UNICEF, ha avvertito che il colera si sta diffondendo in maniera incredibilmente veloce nello Yemen, e il dramma dei bambini sta diventando un disastro.
Secondo stime dell’OMS, milioni di yemeniti vivono in zone a rischio di trasmissione del colera, macerie e distruzione causata dai bombardamenti dell’Arabia Saudita, e il blocco totale imposto contro lo Yemen che impedisce l’arrivo di farmaci nel paese.
Leading poverty charity Oxfam has condemned the UK’s massive arms deals with Saudi Arabia, blasting the British government as “one of the most significant violators” of the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
Last year, London approved the sale of more than £3 billion worth of weapons to the Riyadh regime, helping the Arab monarchy with its ruthless military aggression against Yemen which has killed about 10,000 people since it began in March 2015.
Oxfam says the war has put millions of people in the poverty-stricken country on the verge of a humanitarian crisis.
Penny Lawrence, deputy chief executive of Oxfam GB, is expected to censure Britain’s unconditional support for Saudi Arabia during a speech at the Second Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty in Geneva, on Tuesday.
“Schools, hospitals and homes have been bombed in contravention of the rules of war,” she will say, referring to numerous Saudi airstrikes that have intentionally targeted civilians and critical infrastructure.
Last week, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) decided to pull its staff out of the war-torn country following a number of deadly Saudi airstrikes on MSF-run hospitals across Yemen.
“The UK government is in denial and disarray over its arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign in Yemen,” Lawrence will continue. “It has misled its own parliament about its oversight of arms sales and its international credibility is in jeopardy as it commits to action on paper but does the opposite in reality.”
Britain is one of the key states backing Saudi Arabia’s war on its southern neighbor, which was launched as an attempt to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstate former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of its own.
Under the ATT, signatories are required to block any arms deal if they have knowledge at the time of the sale that the weapons will be used against civilians.
A UN report leaked to the Guardian in January found “widespread and systematic” targeting of civilians in the Saudi-led strikes. The report found 119 strikes that it said violated international humanitarian law.
This is while, according to Amnesty International, the UK government sold 2,400 missiles and 58 warplanes to Saudi Arabia in 2015. London is also accused of providing the Saudis with banned weapons such as cluster bombs.
Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has rejected an initiative put forth by US Secretary of State John Kerry to resolve the crisis in the war-torn country.
Mohammed Abdulsalam, the Ansarullah spokesman, said Saturday that the offer aims at depriving the Houthis of their arms in their fight of resistance against the Saudi invasion.
“Whoever has a greedy eye on our weapons, we will have a greedy eye on his life,” Abdulsalam wrote in a message posted on Facebook.
Kerry earlier called on Houthis to hand over their weapons including ballistic missiles and to pull back from the capital Sana’a. In return, the US secretary of state said Houthis and allies can have a share in Yemen’s future unity government.
The proposal comes amid reports that Houthis have stepped up missile attacks on border regions in Saudi Arabia over the past weeks. The attacks are carried out in reaction to deadly Saudi airstrikes that the regime in Riyadh says are meant to undermine Houthis and allies and to restore power to Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s president who has resigned and fled the capital.
About 10,000 people have been killed across Yemen since the Saudi campaign started in March 2015.
The conflict in Yemen re-escalated after peace talks mediated by the United Nations and held in Kuwait collapsed earlier this month. The talks hit a snag after Houthis rejected a similar initiative proposed by the UN, saying it lacked any clear mechanism for transition of power.
Houthis had declared since the start of the talks in April that they were ready for disarmament and withdrawal from key areas they control in case a broad political agreement is reached in which Hadi would have no role.
Seven suspected members of the Takfiri Daesh group, including a Westerner, have been captured in an offensive in Yemen’s port city of Aden.
The captures were made part of an offensive by forces loyal to ex-Yemeni president Abd Rubbuh Mansur Hadi against al-Qaeda and Daesh, which has claimed a wave of deadly attacks in recent months in Aden.
A militant commander, quoted by the AFP news agency, said the arrests were made in the al-Mansoura district of the southern province of Aden on Saturday.
Ancora una volta assistiamo ad attentati terroristici in Europa. Agli occhi dei mass-media occidentali queste stragi di civili europei sono orribili. Tutte le persone che amano la pace devono condannarle. Come Pressenza le condanniamo con forza.
I politici e la popolazione civile europea però non possono continuare a condannare il terrorismo senza cercare e risolvere le radici del problema.
Come la crisi dei rifugiati non si può risolvere chiudendo le frontiere e riempiendo il Mediterraneo di navi da guerra, così il terrorismo non si può affrontare aumentando le misure di sicurezza e di sorveglianza della popolazione, demonizzando i musulmani e dando tutte le colpe agli immigrati.
L’origine di entrambi questi problemi è il coinvolgimento europeo nelle guerre in Medio Oriente. Questa è una verità scomoda, che quasi tutti i politici sono incapaci di accettare. O, se l’accettano, non possono dirlo in pubblico, perché i media anti-umanisti li perseguiteranno nel tentativo di distruggere la loro carriera e ridurli al silenzio.
L’Europa è intervenuta per decenni nei punti strategici del pianeta, promuovendo guerre e instabilità civile. Tutti conosciamo i nomi di questi posti: Libia, Siria, Afghanistan, Iraq e molti altri. La giustificazione che veniva addotta per queste guerre era la mancanza di diritti umani e democrazia, eppure sappiamo che decine di altri paesi hanno una situazione terribile al riguardo: l’Arabia Saudita è in cima alla lista, ma ne fanno parte anche lo Zimbabwe, l’Egitto e la Cina.
Mentre nei primi paesi la NATO scatena l’inferno in terra, i secondi vengono lasciati liberi di fare quello che vogliono. Guardando da vicino, i primi paesi hanno grandi giacimenti di petrolio o sono importanti dal punto di vista geografico per gli oleodotti, mentre alcuni dei secondi sono privi di materie prime strategiche e con altri ci sono legami commerciali che non si possono mettere a rischio. Un esempio eclatante in questo senso è costituito dalle enormi quantità di armi vendute all’Egitto e all’Arabia Saudita.
Gli europei devono svegliarsi: la politica estera dell’Unione Europea è un disastro. Le guerre non producono la pace, ma solo rifugiati e terroristi. I nostri politici e quelli che controllano il sistema bancario, quello dell’informazione e quello militare lo sanno benissimo.
Mi sono venute in mente le parole pronunciate dallo scrittore e attivista nonviolento Silo negli anni Ottanta:
Non sorprendiamoci se qualcuno risponde con la violenza fisica se l’abbiamo sottoposto a pressioni psicologiche inumane, o alle pressioni dello sfruttamento, della discriminazione e dell’intolleranza. Se questa risposta ci sorprende o siamo parte in causa di questa ingiustizia (e in tale caso la nostra “sorpresa” è anche una bugia), o vediamo solo gli effetti senza notare le cause che determinano questa esplosione.
L’Europa è diretta verso l’abisso. La pace che ha in gran parte sperimentato dal 1945 è in grave pericolo. I benefici sociali e la sicurezza per cui abbiamo tanto lottato sono sotto attacco da parte di una malsana collaborazione tra multi-nazionali, mass-media, banche e complesso militare-industriale.
E’ ora che la società civile agisca. E’ urgente che ognuno di noi partecipi a organizzazioni umaniste basate sui principi della nonviolenza, dove l’essere umano è il valore centrale, come Mondo senza guerre e senza Violenza, il Partito Umanista, Convergenza delle Culture e altre e che queste organizzazioni sostengano come meglio possono ampie campagne per il cambiamento sociale come DiEM25, ICAN, No Nato e molte altre ancora. Tocca ai cittadini europei rifiutare le false informazioni e le giustificazioni dei media anti-umanisti e cercare fonti alternative come Pressenza.
E’ ora di esprimere la solidarietà non solo tra chi ha credenze e aspetto simili, ma tra tutti gli esseri umani. Questa sarebbe l’unica risposta coerente
(Sanaa) – The United States, United Kingdom, France, and others should suspend all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia until it not only curtails its unlawful airstrikes in Yemen but also credibly investigates alleged violations.
Since March 26, 2015, a coalition of nine Arab countries has conducted military operations against the Houthi armed group and carried out numerous indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes. The airstrikes have continued despite a March 20 announcement of a new ceasefire. The coalition has consistently failed to investigate alleged unlawful attacks as the laws of war require. Saudi Arabia has been the leader of the coalition, with targeting decisions made in the Saudi Defense Ministry in Riyadh.
“For the past year, governments that arm Saudi Arabia have rejected or downplayed compelling evidence that the coalition’s airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy global advocacy director. “By continuing to sell weapons to a known violator that has done little to curtail its abuses, the US, UK, and France risk being complicit in unlawful civilian deaths.”
Nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations have investigated and reported on numerous unlawful coalition airstrikes. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other international and Yemeni groups have issued a joint statement calling for the cessation of sales and transfers of all weapons and military-related equipment to parties to the conflict in Yemen where “there is a substantial risk of these arms being used… to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.” Human Rights Watch has documented 36 unlawful airstrikes – some of which may amount to war crimes – that have killed at least 550 civilians, as well as 15 attacks involving internationally banned cluster munitions. The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen, established under UN Security Council Resolution 2140 (2013), in a report made public on January 26, 2016, “documented 119 coalition sorties relating to violations” of the laws of war.
Saudi Arabia has not responded to Human Rights Watch letters detailing apparent violations by the coalition and seeking clarification on the intended target of attack. Saudi Arabia has successfully lobbied the UN Human Rights Council to prevent it from creating an independent, international investigative mechanism.
In September 2014, the Houthis, a Zaidi Shia group from northern Yemen also known as Ansar Allah, took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. In January 2015, they effectively ousted President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and his cabinet. The Houthis, along with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, then swept south, threatening to take the port city of Aden. On March 26, the Saudi-led coalition, consisting of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan, began an aerial bombing campaign against Houthi and allied forces.
At least 3,200 civilians have been killed and 5,700 wounded since coalition military operations began, 60 percent of them in coalition airstrikes, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The naval blockade the coalition imposed on Yemen has contributed to an immense humanitarian crisis that has left 80 percent of the population of the impoverished country in need of humanitarian protection and assistance.
The UN Panel of Experts found that, “the coalition’s targeting of civilians through air strikes, either by bombing residential neighborhoods or by treating the entire cities of Sa‘dah and Maran in northern Yemen as military targets, is a grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. In certain cases, the Panel found such violations to have been conducted in a widespread and systematic manner.” Deliberate, indiscriminate, and disproportionate attacks against civilians are serious violations of the laws of war, to which all warring parties are bound.
The UN panel said that the attacks it documented included attacks on “camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”
The 36 unlawful airstrikes Human Rights Watch documented include attacks on schools, hospitals, and homes, with no evidence they were being used for military purposes. Human Rights Watch has collected the names of over 550 civilians killed in these 36 attacks. Amnesty International has documented an additional 26 strikes that appear to have violated the laws of war. Mwatana, one of Yemen’s leading human rights organizations, issued a report in December that documented an additional 29 unlawful airstrikes across Yemen, from March to October 2015.
In addition, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented civilian casualties from internationally banned cluster munitions used in or near cities and villages. Cluster munitions have been used in multiple locations in at least five of Yemen’s 21 governorates: Amran, Hajja, Hodaida, Saada, and Sanaa. The coalition has used at least six types of cluster munitions, three delivered by air-dropped bombs and three by ground-launched rockets. Human Rights Watch has said there should be an immediate halt to all use of cluster munitions and that coalition members should join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Despite the numerous credible reports of serious laws-of-war violations, the Saudi-led coalition has taken no evident actions either to minimize harm to civilians in its air operations or to investigate past incidents and hold those responsible to account. So long as no such steps are taken, governments should not supply weapons to the leading coalition member.
The UK foreign affairs minister, Phillip Hammond, and other senior UK officials have repeatedly said that coalition forces have not committed any violations of the laws of war. On February 2, 2016, an important cross-party committee of UK members of parliament sent a letter to the international development secretary, Justine Greening, calling for immediate suspension of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and an international independent inquiry into the coalition’s military campaign in Yemen.
On February 25, the European parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini “to launch an initiative aimed at imposing an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.” On February 17, the Dutch parliament voted to impose the embargo and ban all arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
On January 31, the coalition announced the creation of a committee to promote the coalition’s compliance with the laws of war. However, the military spokesman for the coalition specified that the objective of the committee was not to carry out investigations into alleged violations.
Human Rights Watch has also documented serious laws of war violations by Houthi and allied forces, including indiscriminate shelling of cities, enforced disappearances, and the use of internationally banned antipersonnel landmines. Human Rights Watch supports a ban on the sale or provision of weapons to the Houthis that are likely to be used unlawfully, notably unguided “Grad-type” rockets and anti-personnel landmines.
“How many more airstrikes need to wreak havoc on civilians before countries supplying aircraft and bombs to the coalition pull the plug?” Bolopion said.
UK, US Arms Support for Saudi-led Coalition
Under international law, the US is a party to the armed conflict in Yemen. Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, commander of the US Air Force Central Command, said that the US military has deployed dedicated personnel to the Saudi joint planning and operations cell to help “coordinate activities.” US participation in specific military operations, such as providing advice on targeting decisions and aerial refueling during bombing raids, may make US forces jointly responsible for laws-of-war violations by coalition forces. As a party to the conflict, the US is itself obligated to investigate allegedly unlawful attacks in which it took part.
The UK government has said that though it has personnel in Saudi Arabia, they are not involved in carrying out strikes, or directing or conducting operations in Yemen, or selecting targets. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that UK personnel are deployed to “provide advice, help and training” to the Saudi military on the laws of war.
Largest Foreign Military Sales to Saudi Arabia
In July 2015, the US Defense Department approved a number of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, including a US$5.4 billion deal for 600 Patriot Missiles and a $500 million deal for more than a million rounds of ammunition, hand grenades, and other items, for the Saudi army. According to the US Congressional review, between May and September, the US sold $7.8 billion worth of weapons to the Saudis.
In October, the US government approved the sale to Saudi Arabia of up to four Lockheed Littoral Combat Ships for $11.25 billion. In November, the US signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth $1.29 billion for more than 10,000 advanced air-to-surface munitions including laser-guided bombs, “bunker buster” bombs, and MK84 general purpose bombs; the Saudis have used all three in Yemen.
According to the London-based Campaign Against Arms Trade, the UK government approved GB£2.8 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia between January and September 2015. The weapons include 500-pound Paveway IV bombs. The UK is negotiating a £1 billion weapons deal with the UAE.
A June 2015 Spanish government report stated that Spain had authorized eight licenses for arms exports to Saudi Arabia worth $28.9 million in the first half of the year. In February 2016, Spanish media reported that the government-owned shipbuilding company Navantia was about to sign a contract worth $3.3 billion with Saudi Arabia for the construction of five Avante 2200 type frigates for the Saudi navy.
In July 2015, Saudi Arabia reportedly signed agreements worth $12 billion with France, which included $500 million for 23 Airbus H145 helicopters. The kingdom is also expected to order 30 military patrol boats by 2016 under the agreement. Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia has also recently entered into exclusive negotiations with the French company Thales Group to buy spy satellite and telecommunications equipment worth “billions of euros.”
Human Rights Watch has documented 36 airstrikes between March 2015 and January 2016, that appear to have been unlawfully indiscriminate or disproportionate, which include a March 30, 2015 airstrike on a camp for internally displaced people that killed at least 29 civilians and a March 31, 2015 airstrike on a dairy factory outside the port city of Hodaida that killed at least 31 civilians. In Saada, a Houthi stronghold in the north, Human Rights Watch examined more than a dozen airstrikes that occurred between April and May that destroyed or damaged civilian homes, five markets, a school, and a gas station, though there was no evidence these sites were being used for military purposes. These strikes killed 59 people, mostly civilians, including at least 35 children.
On May 12, the coalition struck a civilian prison in the western town of Abs, killing 25 people. On July 24, the coalition dropped nine bombs on and around two residential compounds of the Mokha Steam Power Plant, which housed plant workers and their family members, killing at least 65 civilians. On August 30, an airstrike hit Al-Sham Water Bottling Factory in the outskirts of Abs, killing 14 workers, including three boys, who were nearing the end of their night shift.
The coalition has carried out strikes on marketplaces, leading to high civilian death tolls. On May 12, a strike on the marketplace of the eastern village of Zabid killed at least 60 civilians. On July 4, an airstrike on the marketplace of the northern village of Muthalith Ahim killed at least 65. On July 6, bombs hit two markets in the governorate of Amran, north of Sanaa, killing at least 29 civilians.
On October 26, the coalition bombed a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in the northern town of Haydan in Saada governorate six times, wounding two patients. Since then, coalition airstrikes have hit MSF facilities twice. An airstrike hit a mobile clinic on December 2, in Taizz, wounding eight, including two staff members, and killing another civilian nearby. On January 21, an airstrike hit an MSF ambulance, killing its driver and six others, and wounded dozens in Saada.
On January 10, a projectile hit an MSF-supported hospital in Saada, killing six people and wounding at least seven, most of them medical staff and patients. MSF said it could not confirm the origin of the attack, but its staff had seen planes flying over the facility at the time of the attack. MSF said on January 25, that it had yet to receive any official explanation for any of these incidents.
On May 8, 2015, Brig. Gen. Ahmad al-Assiri, the military spokesman for the coalition, declared the entire cities of Saada and Marran, another Houthi stronghold, to be military targets. In an interview with Reuters on February 1, al-Assiri spoke about Saudi civilian casualties from Houthi and pro-Saleh forces’ firing across the border. He said, “Now our rules of engagement are: you are close to the border, you are killed.” Treating an entire area as the object of military attack violates the laws-of-war prohibition on attacks that treat distinct military objectives in a city, town or area as a single military objective. Doing so unlawfully denies civilians protection from attack.
Human Rights Watch also documented the coalition’s use of at least six types of cluster munitions in at least 15 attacks in five of Yemen’s 21 governorates between March 2015 and January 2016. Cluster munitions are indiscriminate weapons and pose long-term dangers to civilians. They are prohibited by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, adopted by 118 countries, though not Saudi Arabia or Yemen.
Failure to Investigate Alleged Violations
Countries that are party to a conflict have an obligation under international law to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and hold those responsible to account. Human Rights Watch has seen no indication that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has conducted any meaningful investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations.
On August 19, 2015, Human Rights Watch and 22 other human rights and humanitarian organizations called on the UN Human Rights Council to create an independent international commission of inquiry at its September session to investigate alleged laws-of-war violations by all parties to the conflict. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights similarly called on UN member states to encourage the establishment of an “international independent and impartial” investigative mechanism.
Instead, on September 7, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi of Yemen established a national commission to investigate violations of human rights and the laws of war. During the ensuing UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries effectively blocked an effort led by the Netherlands to create an international investigative mechanism. The national commission has taken no tangible steps to conduct investigations, nor has it revealed any working methods or plans, three people close to the commission told Human Rights Watch.
Five days after the release of UN Panel of Experts report on Yemen, on January 31, 2016, the coalition announced a new committee to assess the coalition’s rules of engagement in the war and produce recommendations for the coalition to better respect the laws of war. “The goal of the committee is not to investigate allegations,” Al-Assiri said. “Its primary goal is to confirm the precision of the procedures followed on the level of the coalition command.” As such, this proposed body does not meet the requirements for an impartial investigative mechanism that can address accountability for unlawful attacks or compensate victims of coalition violations, Human Rights Watch said.
Al-Assiri said that the Saudi military has been conducting internal investigations into attacks in which a violation might have ensued, and pointed to a single airstrike that had led to a violation: the October 26, 2015 bombing of an MSF hospital in northern Yemen. He said the strike had been the result of “human error,” but did not outline any steps taken to hold the responsible military personnel to account, or compensate the two civilians wounded in the strike.
The United States should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, or they could be held accountable for war crimes committed in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said.
A Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out a military campaign in neighboring Yemen since March 2015, after large swaths of the country fell under the control of the Houthis — a religious-political extremist group hostile to the Saudis.
The Gulf kingdom, together with Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and other Middle Eastern and North African countries, initially launched a series of airstrikes on the Houthi-held areas, as well as imposing an air and naval blockade of the country.