Arab coalition admits to ‘shortcomings’ in Yemen strikes

RIYADH: The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen acknowledged Thursday “shortcomings” in two out of eight cases it has investigated of UN-condemned air strikes on civilian targets in the country.

A 14-member investigative team — made up of coalition states Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Yemen — probed claims of attacks on a residential area, hospitals, markets, a wedding and World Food Programme aid trucks.

“We found shortcomings in two cases while the rest were in line with international humanitarian law,” the team’s Bahraini spokesman, Mansur al-Mansur, told a briefing in Riyadh.

They found that the coalition, which launched an air war on Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015, guilty of “mistakenly” hitting a residential compound in the Red Sea port city of Mokha after it had received “imprecise intelligence information”.

Human Rights Watch condemned as an “apparent war crime” the raid which it said killed at least 65 civilians in July last year.

The investigative team is calling on families of victims to apply for compensation by contacting Yemen’s Saudi-backed government, Mansur said.

The team also held the coalition responsible for air strikes on Haydan hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the northern rebel stronghold of Saada.

The rebels were using the hospital as a hideout, which is “a breach of international humanitarian law”, said Mansur.

However, the coalition should have warned MSF officials before targeting the building, he said. No deaths had been reported in these strikes.

The team cleared the coalition of wrongdoing in the remaining six cases, including raids last year on a delivery by WFP trucks that had not coordinated with the coalition.

The trucks were also not marked to show that they belonged to an international aid organisation, according to Mansur.

The 16-month-old war in Yemen has killed some 6,400 people and exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country, the United Nations says.

Saudi Arabia reacted angrily to a decision in June to blacklist the coalition after a UN report found the coalition responsible for 60 percent of the 785 deaths of children in Yemen last year.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon accused Saudi Arabia of threatening to cut off funding to UN aid programmes over the blacklist, a charge denied by Riyadh.

Ban: ‘Strong concerns’ remain

Late last month, the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, outlined a series of measures the coalition is taking to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen, in a letter to Ban.

The coalition is in “direct dialogue” with humanitarian organisations, including MSF, to guarantee protection of medical facilities, the letter said.

Mouallimi also provided Ban with details of steps taken to designate targets and ensure they have “identifiable military” aims.

On Tuesday, Ban reported to the UN Security Council on his controversial decision to temporarily remove the coalition from the UN list of shame, a move that sparked an outcry from human rights groups.

“I still have very strong concerns about the protection of Yemeni children,” Ban said.

Ban said he had received information on the steps taken by the coalition but that these fell short and “the content of the (UN) report (on children’s deaths) stands”.

A 14-member investigative team — made up of coalition states Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Yemen — probed claims of attacks on a residential area, hospitals, markets, a wedding and World Food Programme aid trucks.

“We found shortcomings in two cases while the rest were in line with international humanitarian law,” the team’s Bahraini spokesman, Mansur al-Mansur, told a briefing in Riyadh.

They found that the coalition, which launched an air war on Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015, guilty of “mistakenly” hitting a residential compound in the Red Sea port city of Mokha after it had received “imprecise intelligence information”.

Human Rights Watch condemned as an “apparent war crime” the raid which it said killed at least 65 civilians in July last year.

The investigative team is calling on families of victims to apply for compensation by contacting Yemen’s Saudi-backed government, Mansur said.

The team also held the coalition responsible for air strikes on Haydan hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the northern rebel stronghold of Saada.

The rebels were using the hospital as a hideout, which is “a breach of international humanitarian law”, said Mansur.

However, the coalition should have warned MSF officials before targeting the building, he said. No deaths had been reported in these strikes.

The team cleared the coalition of wrongdoing in the remaining six cases, including raids last year on a delivery by WFP trucks that had not coordinated with the coalition.

The trucks were also not marked to show that they belonged to an international aid organisation, according to Mansur.

The 16-month-old war in Yemen has killed some 6,400 people and exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country, the United Nations says.

Saudi Arabia reacted angrily to a decision in June to blacklist the coalition after a UN report found the coalition responsible for 60 percent of the 785 deaths of children in Yemen last year.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon accused Saudi Arabia of threatening to cut off funding to UN aid programmes over the blacklist, a charge denied by Riyadh.

Ban: ‘Strong concerns’ remain

Late last month, the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, outlined a series of measures the coalition is taking to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen, in a letter to Ban.

The coalition is in “direct dialogue” with humanitarian organisations, including MSF, to guarantee protection of medical facilities, the letter said.

Mouallimi also provided Ban with details of steps taken to designate targets and ensure they have “identifiable military” aims.

On Tuesday, Ban reported to the UN Security Council on his controversial decision to temporarily remove the coalition from the UN list of shame, a move that sparked an outcry from human rights groups.

“I still have very strong concerns about the protection of Yemeni children,” Ban said.

Ban said he had received information on the steps taken by the coalition but that these fell short and “the content of the (UN) report (on children’s deaths) stands”.

Categories: International

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