Five days after the release of UN Panel of Experts report on Yemen, on 31 January 2016, the Saudi-led Arab coalition announced it had formed "an independent team of experts in international humanitarian law and weapons to assess the incidents and investigate the rules of engagement". The coalition said the objective was to "develop a clear and comprehensive report on each incident with the conclusions, lessons learned, recommendations and measures that should be taken" to spare civilians.
On 8 January 2016, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that Saudi coalition use of cluster munitions could be a war crime. HRW condemned the Saudi-led coalition for the attacks saying: "The coalition's repeated use of cluster bombs in the middle of a crowded city suggests an intent to harm civilians, which is a war crime. These outrageous attacks show that the coalition seems less concerned than ever about sparing civilians from war's horrors." A week later, Amnesty International published new evidence that appeared to confirm reports of coalition forces using US-made cluster munitions on Sanaʽa on 6 January 2016.More Info
The scope of strikes expanded further on 27 March, with a radar installation in the Ma'rib Governorate and an airbase in the Abyan Governorate coming under air attack. The commander of the operation dismissed reports of civilian casualties, saying airstrikes were being carried out with precision. Additional strikes early on the next day hit targets in Al Hudaydah, Sa'dah and the Sanaʽa area, as well as Ali Abdullah Saleh's main base. Rumours indicated Saleh fled to Sanhan, on the outskirts of the Houthi-controlled capital. An Aden government official said Saudi strikes destroyed a long-range missile facility controlled by the Houthis.More Info
A UN panel of experts said in a report for the UN Security Council in January 2016, which was leaked to The Guardian, that the Saudi-led coalition had undertaken 119 sorties in Yemen that violated international humanitarian law. The panel said it had "documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including 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 Sanaʽa, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes". The report said: "Many attacks involved multiple airstrikes on multiple civilian objects. Of the 119 sorties, the panel identified 146 targeted objects. The panel also documented three alleged cases of civilians fleeing residential bombings and being chased and shot at by helicopters." While the UN experts were not allowed on the ground in Yemen, they studied satellite imagery of cities before and after attacks, that showed "extensive damage to residential areas and civilian objects". The UN panel concluded that "civilians are disproportionately affected" by the fighting and deplored tactics that "constitute the prohibited use of starvation as a method of warfare". The report said: "The coalition's targeting of civilians through airstrikes, either by bombing residential neighbourhoods or by treating the entire cities of Sa'dah and Maran 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." The report called for an international commission, set up by the Security Council, that should "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". Saudi Arabia had previously objected to an inquiry being set up.More Info
Scholar Ian Almond criticised the media commentators, the lack of balance in reporting, and the "way we are learning to talk about ISIS." While there was talk about 'radical evil' and 'radical Islam', Almond found it striking because "some of the most revered and oft-quoted figures in our Western political tradition have been capable of the most vicious acts of savagery – and yet all we ever hear about is how much the Middle East has to learn from us." Almond goes on to cite how Winston Churchill "wanted to gas women and children", how Ronald Reagan's Central American policies "disembowlled more children than ISIS," how President Barack Obama's "planes and drones have dropped bombs on as many schoolchildren as ISIS," how former secretary of state Madeleine Albright commented on the deaths of Iraqi children killed by sanctions, how Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher "assisted in the torture and disappearance of thousands of Chilean students and labour activitists... For anyone familiar with the history of both U.S. and European torture and murder over the past 150 years, it might not be all that hyperbolic to say that in ISIS, what we see more than anything else is a more expansive, explicit version of our own cruelties. In bombing ISIS and its would-be imperialism, we are really bombing a version of ourselves."More Info
On 8 May 2015, a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition declared the entire city of Sa'dah, with a population of around 50,000 people, a military target. According to Human Rights Watch: "This not only violated the laws-of-war prohibition against placing civilians at particular risk by treating a number of separate and distinct military objectives as a single military target, but possibly also the prohibition against making threats of violence whose purpose is to instill terror in the civilian population."More Info
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