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Saudi-led Coalition must be punished for war crimes in Yemen, insists Human Rights Watch

Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division
Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division

The Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen has committed war crimes and must be punished, a new report by Human Rights Watch insists. Investigations conducted by the Coalition forces on alleged war crimes lacks credibility, says HRW, and fails to provide redress for civilian victims. The 90-page report was issued on Friday.

“The work of the Coalition’s Commission of Inquiry over the past two years has not met the international standards of transparency, integrity and independence,” says HRW. “The team did not even meet the requirements of its limited mandate to assess allegations and incidents during the Coalition’s military operations. The report clarified that the Commission presented analysis with serious flaws vis-à-vis the laws of war and reached dubious results.”

According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division:

For more than two years, the Coalition has claimed that the Joint Incidents Assessment Team was reliably investigating the alleged unlawful air strikes, but investigators were covering up war crimes in one way or another.

Warning governments which sell arms to Saudi Arabia, Whitson said that they must recognise that the false investigations led by the Coalition do not protect them from complicity in serious abuses in Yemen. “Despite the Coalition’s promises, there is no clear way for victims or relatives of civilians to get indemnities from the coalition forces.”

Read: HRW calls for halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia

The HRW official stressed that Saudi and Emirati leaders, whose countries play key roles in the operations of the Coalition, will face potential criminal liability, such as leadership responsibility.

Human Rights Watch called on the UN Security Council to consider imposing targeted sanctions on senior Coalition commanders who share the greatest responsibility for repeated grave violations. An air strike in Saada province in the north of Yemen, for example, killed 51 people, including 40 children, when a Coalition aircraft dropped a bomb on a school bus on 9 August.

The Coalition said that it would investigate the incident, amid accusations that Washington bore part of the moral responsibility for the attack, because the bomb used in the attack was sold by the US. The incident prompted international condemnation.

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