The Saudi-led coalition which is waging a battle with Houthi rebels in Yemen has rejected a UN report which said some of its attacks may amount to war crimes.
The coalition of Arab states fighting against Yemen’s Houthis denounced the report by U.N. human rights experts as “inaccurate and biased.”
The Group of Experts’ report, which covers the period from September 2014 to June 2018, analyses the main patterns of violations and abuses of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law committed by parties to the conflict.
Among their conclusions, the experts say individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and in the de facto authorities have committed acts that may amount to international crimes.
Like this month’s attack on a school bus carried out by Saudi-Arabian air force which killed 44 children, the report notes that coalition air strikes have caused the most direct civilian casualties. The report confirms that coalition airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.
But, the statement released by the Saud-led coalition says “they have co-operated in an ‘open and transparent manner’ with the UN group since they began working in December 2017. It says "false allegations" have been made against it based on "misleading reports by some non-governmental organisations".
"The report had several methodological fallacies and misconstrued the facts of the conflict ... ignoring the true reasons for the conflict which are the coup of the Iran-backed Houthi militias against the legitimate government in Yemen," said a statement published by the Saudi state news agency SPA. These include claims that it had targeted civilians, restricted humanitarian aid and carried out arbitrary detentions.
The statement also expresses "surprise for the report's disregard of the great humanitarian role played by the coalition states in Yemen, and the huge humanitarian assistance it has provided in order to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people".
However, this claim of the Saudi-led coalition was pre-emptively rubbished by the panel members. “There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call on them to prioritise human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen.
Since the breakout of the conflict between Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia, from March 2015 up to 23 August 2018, an estimated 6,660 civilians were killed and 10,563 injured; however, the real figures are likely to be significantly higher. According to UN figures, 75% of Yemen’s population, some 22 million people, need some form of humanitarian assistance and protection as a consequence of the conflict.