The Global Legal Action Network for Human Rights (GLAN) has submitted new evidence to the UK Government that allegedly shows that the Saudi/UAE-led coalition has committed gross violations of international humanitarian law during the ongoing war in Yemen. The 288-page report is largely based on research conducted on the ground in Yemen, including eye-witness interviews, bomb-fragment analysis, and photographs collected at air-strike sites.
The report claims that coalition forces carried out unlawful attacks on Yemen, which they then failed to investigate adequately, and whitewashed evidence of significant harm caused to civilians. It directly accuses coalition forces of “targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
Most of the evidence in the report was compiled by Yemeni human rights group Mwatana, which is recognized as independent and impartial by the UN. Mwatana has field reporters in all-but-one of Yemen’s 22 governorates and looked at over 400 cases for its submissions to the GLAN report. The report claims that coalition forces carried out unlawful attacks on Yemen, which they then failed to investigate adequately, and whitewashed evidence of significant harm caused to civilians. It directly accuses coalition forces of “targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
The report, which was prepared in collaboration with UK law firm Bindmans, was submitted to the office of the newly appointed and much-criticized international trade secretary Liz Truss. It is also being submitted to the Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls. The Guardian referred to the report as “the most comprehensive and independent analysis of the Saudi bombing campaign compiled so far.”
The GLAN report comes after the Court of Appeal in the UK ruled in June that the British government must review its decision to continue to export weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The court ruled the UK government had unlawfully approved weapons transfers to the Saudis as it had not formally assessed the Gulf states’ records of alleged violations of international humanitarian law. Under UK law it is illegal for the government to approve weapons transfers to any country if there is a “clear risk” that they will be used to carry out war crimes.
According to the Court of Appeal, the UK government relied too heavily upon evidence provided by the Saudi and UAE regimes in its decision, ignoring credible, repeated allegations that the recipients of UK manufactured arms had used them to carry out serious violations of international law.
The evidence collected by Mwatana from bombing sites directly contradicts the provided Saudi analysis relied upon by the UK government.
The evidence collected by Mwatana from bombing sites directly contradicts the provided Saudi analysis relied upon by the UK government. Arron Merrat, the UK House of Commons researcher who collated the evidence in the report said: “This evidence shows not only that Riyadh is targeting Yemeni civilians but that it is covering them up with whitewash ‘investigations’…. What’s worse is that the British government says that it bases its decisions on whether or not to approve arms sales to Saudi Arabia on information provided to it by Saudi Arabia.”
Mwatana identified 20 cases in which their evidence contradicts the claims of coalition forces. This includes an attack on a funeral party in Hodeidah on September 21, 2016. The attack killed 23 people, including five children. While coalition forces deny responsibility for the attack, the GLAN report includes photographs of the tail fins of guided missiles carrying coalition markings, as well as evidence that a missile fragment came from a US-made GBU-16 (to which only the coalition has access).
The report also exposed the erroneous coalition claim that no air strike took place in the UNESCO-protected al-Feleihi district of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, on September 18, 2015, after bomb fragments were identified as having come from air-delivered explosives. The same is true of an attack on a market in Hodeidah on March 10, 2017, which killed 21 civilians, including three children. While it has been officially denied that coalition forces were to blame, several eye-witness accounts state otherwise. The report is littered with such examples, in all cases highly substantiated.
GLAN’s director Gearóid Ó Cuinn said: “The UK government can either rely on discredited Saudi assurances or listen to those who have documented painstakingly the constant civilian deaths caused by coalition airstrikes.”
The war in Yemen, now in its fifth year, has left an indescribable trail of destruction in its wake.
The war in Yemen, now in its fifth year, has left an indescribable trail of destruction in its wake. The UN Secretary-General called the war “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” in April 2018. Now a year and a half later, the GLAN report outlines flagrant violations during multiple airstrikes, for which the coalition has denied responsibility, even though eye-witness accounts and photographic evidence suggest the bombings were carried out by coalition forces. It also demonstrates that evidence of the harm visited upon civilians has been readily available throughout the conflict and was made available to the perpetrators over a period of several years. This means that the coalition is guilty of war crimes, having knowingly carried out widespread systematic attacks against a civilian population.
“The Saudi/UAE-led coalition is decimating Yemen, with indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes destroying the country’s infrastructure without regard for civilians,” said Radhya Al-Mutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights. “The UK should have stopped selling weapons to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition a long time ago. We hope this evidence helps them finally make the right decision, and to start seriously pushing for peace.” Earlier this year, the government of Germany ceased its arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the violations during the war in Yemen as it’s justification. According to Human Rights Watch and others, the UK and France should do the same. In the light of the ongoing crisis and evidence of the kind supplied in the GLAN report, this analysis is difficult to argue with.