Saudi-UAE alliance ‘interfered’ in UN panel’s work in Yemen

Head of a UN-mandated team of investigators on Yemen says the UAE interfered in his panel’s work.

The Cost Of War Along Yemen''s West Coast
The report said air attacks by the Saudi and UAE-led coalition had caused the most direct civilian casualties [File: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images]

The head of a UN-mandated team of investigators on Yemen has accused Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of interfering in his panel’s work, which accuses all sides of the conflict in Yemen of rights abuses.

Kamel Jendoubi told Al Jazeera on Thursday that his team presented a list of human rights abuses to the United Nations.

These were based on a report his panel published in August, which said that it had “reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen have committed a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law”.

Many of these violations may amount to war crimes, the report said, pointing to widespread arbitrary detention, rape, torture and the recruitment of children as young as eight to fight.

“I did not expect such a harsh reaction, we’ve done a professional, neutral and objective job,” Jendoubi told Al Jazeera.

“All we did was report based on allegations and actions we collected during our visits, from testimonies and reports … It’s a normal process for any experts,” he said.

The report said air attacks by the Saudi and UAE-led military coalition had caused the most direct civilian casualties in the war, and a blockade of Yemeni ports and airspace may have violated international humanitarian law.

The alliance, which has been at war with Houthi rebels since March 2015, has repeatedly denied allegations of war crimes and claims its attacks are not directed at civilians.

Data collected by Al Jazeera and the Yemen Data Project has found almost one-third of the 16,000 air raids carried out in the country have hit non-military sites.

The attacks have targeted weddings and hospitals as well as water and electricity plants, killing and wounding thousands.

“The group of experts has reason to believe the government of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, are responsible for violations of human rights,” Jendoubi said when the report was published.

“Violations and crimes have been perpetrated and continue to be perpetrated in Yemen by the parties to the conflict.

“Members of the government of Yemen and the [Saudi-UAE] coalition may have conducted attacks that were disproportionate and could constitute war crimes,” Jendoubi added.

The experts also accused the Houthis of indiscriminate shelling in civilian areas and snipers targeting non-combatants.

The United States, which has provided weaponry and logistical support to the coalition, said at the time of the release of the report that the government’s support for it was constantly under review and was not unconditional.

The fighting has so far killed more than 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

Source: Al Jazeera