The Saudi-led coalition fighting Shi’ite rebels in Yemen failed to redress civilian victims and conduct credible investigations into alleged war crimes committed there, an international rights group said on Friday.
In a 90-page report titled “Hiding Behind the Coalition,” Human Rights Watch said the coalition’s “sham investigations” have fallen short of “international standards regarding transparency, impartiality, and independence.” The report highlights discrepancies between the findings of the coalitions’ investigative body, the Joint Incidents Assessments Team, established two years ago, and those by HRW on airstrikes.
In one incident in September 2016, the coalition attacked a water well killing dozens of civilians. JIAT’s investigations later determined the incident was an “unintended mistake.” Meanwhile, a HRW team documented about a dozen bomb craters in the area, the report said.
Another JIAT investigation into a 2015 attack in which the coalition bombed a residential complex in the port city of Mocha concluded that the structure was “partly affected by unintentional bombing” and didn’t provide a tally of the civilians wounded, the report said. HRW, however, found that the attack killed 65 civilians after the complex was hit by several bombs.
It also said the coalition’s investigative body has failed to identify a “clear way” to provide reparations to civilian victims of the coalition’s airstrikes and HRW observed several cases in which JIAT recommended assistance but “none had received any.” HRW also slammed the “laws-of-war” analyses that JIAT has provided as “deeply flawed” and “reached dubious conclusions.”
HRW’s Mideast director, Sarah Leah Whitson, added that countries selling arms to Saudi Arabia aren’t protected from “being complicit in serious violations in Yemen.”
“The failure of the coalition’s investigative body to carry out credible inquiries and take appropriate action reinforces the urgency for U.N. Human Rights Council members to renew and strengthen the U.N. inquiry into violations by all parties in Yemen,” Whitson said.
Friday’s report said the Shi’ite rebels, known as Houthis, have frequently violated war laws and referred to documented cases where Houthis were found to be using landmines, deploying child soldiers, randomly shelling cities and torturing detainees. The Houthis failed to take “any concrete steps” to investigate potentially unlawful attacks or ensure accountability, HRW said.
Earlier this month, coalition airstrikes hit a bus in a busy market in Yemen’s north, killing at least 51 people including 40 children in an attack that drew wide international condemnation. The coalition said the attack would be investigated.
The coalition has been at war with the Iran-backed Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, since March 2015 in what has now become a mostly stalemated conflict. Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict that has killed over 10,000, crippled the country’s health system and pushed it to the brink of famine.
On Thursday, the Houthis blamed an attack in Yemen’s west on airstrikes by the coalition saying it killed some 30 people including children and women. Meanwhile, the state media of the United Arab Emirates, a key coalition member, disputed the claim and said the rebels launched the attack, killing one child and injuring dozens. Neither side’s claims could be independently verified.