US official calls for investigation into Saudi-UAE raids in Yemen

Recent UN report blames Saudi-UAE military coalition for most of the civilian deaths in Yemen’s war.

File: Saudi air strike on Yemen''s capital Sanaa
The Saudi military said the UN report was referred to a legal team for review [Reuters]

A US official has called for an investigation into attacks by the Saudi-UAE coalition in Yemen and for perpetrators to be held accountable.

In an interview with Al Jazeera in the Saudi city of Jeddah, Deputy US Ambassador to Yemen Ana Escrogima called for a speedy and transparent probe into the raids carried out by the Saudi-UAE coalition in Yemen.

Escorgima’s calls came after a team of UN-mandated investigators said in a report they 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.”

Have war crimes been committed in Yemen?

The damning report blamed both the Houthis and the Saudi-UAE coalition for the violence in Yemen, but said air attacks by the military coalition had caused the most direct civilian casualties in the war, and added that a blockade of Yemeni ports and airspace may have violated international humanitarian law.

Kamel Jendoubi, who heads the UN team, said the investigators had identified a number of alleged perpetrators.

“A confidential list of these individuals will be presented today to the [UN] High Commissioner” for Human Rights, he told journalists in Geneva.

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

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

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

Saudi-UAE response

The coalition, 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.

A spokesperson for the Saudi military said the UN report was referred to a legal team for review and will announce its conclusions after it is completed.

UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the report merited a response.

“We should review and respond to the [UN] experts’ report published today,” said Gargash in a tweet. “The coalition is fulfilling its role in reclaiming the Yemeni state and securing the future of the region from Iranian interference.”

In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday, the coalition condemned the report saying it “did not refer to the Iranian role in the continuation of the war in Yemen and fueling the conflict and its continued support for the Houthis.”

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 aid group Save the Children has estimated that an average of 130 children die every day from extreme hunger and disease – a crisis brought about by the conflict.

And according to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict. However, analysts say the death toll is likely to be higher.

The UN has described the situation in Yemen as world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

UN: Possible war crimes in Yemen committed by all sides

Source: Al Jazeera