The Yemen war: the Saudi-led coalition forces prosecute those accused of violating international humanitarian law


A Yemeni boy receiving treatment in hospital

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About 29 students were killed in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike targeting a bus in Dhahyan in 2018

The Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen said it has begun judicial proceedings against military personnel suspected of violating international humanitarian law.

Colonel Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the coalition forces, said that the judgments issued in the cases would be declared “as soon as they acquire the final status.”

United Nations experts said that the coalition may be responsible for committing war crimes in Yemen.

They also expressed concern about the independence of the coalition-formed team to review the alleged violations.

Yemen was destroyed by a worsening conflict in March 2015, when the Houthis took control of a large part of the west of the country, and forced President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and seven other Arab countries have expressed concern about the rise of the Houthi movement, which is believed to be militarily backed by Iran, and launched a campaign aimed at restoring the Hadi government.

The United Nations has verified the killing of about 7,500 civilians by September 2019, most of which have fallen due to raids by the air coalition, while another monitoring body has estimated the death toll at about 100,000 people, including 12,000 civilians.

The Saudi News Agency said that Al-Maliki, during a press conference held in London on Wednesday, reaffirmed the coalition’s commitment to the provisions and rules of international humanitarian law and the accountability of violators of the rules of engagement and violators of international humanitarian law, if any, according to the laws and regulations of each country in the coalition countries.

He said that the joint leadership of the alliance referred files to the results of investigations related to “the existence of a mistake and a violation of the rules of engagement of the countries concerned,” adding that “the judicial authorities began the trial procedures.”

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An air strike on Abs rural hospital in 2016 killed 19 people

The report of the Saudi News Agency did not mention any of these incidents, but the Guardian newspaper stated that an air force was facing military trials due to three attacks, namely:

– August 2016 air strike on Abs rural hospital, killing 19 people.

– An April 2018 air strike on a wedding in “Bani Qais” that killed 20 people.

– An airstrike in August 2018 on a bus in “Dhahyan,” killing about 29 children.

Last September, the United Nations team of experts on Yemen announced that it had good reasons to believe that members of the Saudi-led coalition and pro-government Yemeni forces had committed acts that amounted to war crimes, including:

Attacks that use indirect fire weapons and small arms fire in violation of the principle of distinction.

Air strikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.

– murder, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, rape, assault on personal dignity, denial of a fair trial, and the recruitment of children under the age of 15 or their use to participate actively in hostilities.

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The Saudi-led coalition insists on its commitment to international humanitarian law

The report also accused the Houthi rebels of acts that may amount to war crimes, including direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks, as well as killings, torture, hostage taking, and the recruitment of children.

The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen said that the coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team, chosen by Saudi Arabia to review the alleged violations, raises “concerns about the integrity of its investigations, the accuracy of its analysis, its results, and its credibility.”

The Panel of Experts added that the assessment of the Coalition joint team on the targeting process was “particularly worrisome, as it indicates that an attack on a military target is legal, regardless of civilian casualties, and therefore ignores the principle of proportionality”.

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