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The New Arab

International inquiry called into Yemen war violations

More than 5,800 people have been killed and 27,000 wounded since March last year [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2016

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The United Nations is calling on the Security Council to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen by all parties.
The Saudi-led coalition waging an air war in Yemen has carried out 119 sorties that violated humanitarian law, a United Nations panel of experts said in a report, calling for an international commission of inquiry.

The UN Security Council should consider setting up the inquiry to "investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen by all parties and to identify the perpetrators of such violations," the report said.

The panel said it had documented coalition strikes on civilian targets including refugee camps, weddings, buses, residential areas, medical facilities, schools, mosques, markets, factories, food warehouses and airports.

"Many attacks involved multiple airstrikes on multiple civilian objects," it said.

Yemen descended into chaos when the coalition began airstrikes in March to support the government and push back Houthi rebels who had seized the capital Sanaa.

More than 5,800 people have been killed and 27,000 wounded since then, according to UN figures.

About 60 percent of all civilian deaths and injuries were caused by air-launched explosives, the report said.

The panel had documented coalition strikes on civilian targets including refugee camps, weddings, buses, residential areas, medical facilities, schools, mosques...

The experts documented at least three alleged cases of civilians fleeing residential bombings and being chased and shot at by helicopters.

While the panel was unable to travel to Yemen, they studied satellite imagery of cities before and after attacks, that showed "extensive damage to residential areas and civilian objects".

More than 21 million people in Yemen - 82 percent of the population - are facing severe food shortages.

The dire humanitarian crisis is compounded by the Saudi blockade of ships carrying fuel, food and other essentials that are trying to reach Yemen.

The panel said that "civilians are disproportionately affected" by the fighting and deplored tactics that "constitute the prohibited use of starvation as a method of warfare."

Civilians are disproportionately affected by the fighting and deplored tactics that constitute the prohibited use of starvation as a method of warfare

A previous bid at the UN Human Rights Council to set up an inquiry failed over objections from Saudi Arabia.

The panel's report was presented last week to the council, which must consider the next steps to try to end the fighting in Yemen.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the Saudi campaign in Yemen.

Earlier this month, he warned that cluster bomb attacks by the coalition on Sanaa could amount to a war crime. The coalition later denied using the munition.

Report erodes UK logic for arming Saudis 

Human Rights Watch says the report contradicts Britain's rationale for selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

David Mepham, the UK Director of Human Rights Watch, said the report's findings "flatly contradict repeated statements made by British ministers about the actions of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen."

"For almost a year, (Foreign Secretary Philip) Hammond has made the false and misleading claim that there is no evidence of laws of war violations by the UK's Saudi ally and other members of the coalition," he said.

Hammond made the comments to lawmakers in the House of Commons this month.

For almost a year, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has made the false and misleading claim that there is no evidence of laws of war violations by the UK's Saudi ally and other members of the coalition

Mepham added that the report shows the violations are frequent and widespread, including attacks on medical facilities, schools, mosques and populated residential areas.

He urged the British government to halt the transfer of any military equipment to Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies that might be used for such violations.

The United States has been Saudi Arabia's main arms supplier, selling it $1.3 billion worth of munitions alone at the end of last year when Riyadh was running low due to the Yemen war.

Britain, France and others have all taken part in the bonanza over the years, selling the kingdom billions of dollars' worth of arms, some during the fighting in Yemen.

Coalition airstrikes targeting the Houthis in and around the capital have killed more than 20 rebels since Tuesday, security and medical officials said.

Some 26 people from both sides were killed during pro-government advances in the central city of Taiz, they said, adding that fighting also continued in the northern Jawf province and air raids hit the western coastal city of Hodeida.

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