Yemen conflict: United Nations experts detail possible war crimes by all parties

Yemen conflict: United Nations experts detail possible war crimes by all parties

Yemen conflict: United Nations experts detail possible war crimes by all parties

U.N. experts said Tuesday that evidence "strongly suggests" the governments of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have perpetrated human rights abuses "that may amount to war crimes" during Yemen's civil war, including torture, sexual violence, conscription of child soldiers, and targeting of civilians.

Since March 2015, at least 6,660 civilians have been killed and more than 10,500 injured in the conflict, according to the OHCHR report.

Most of the civilian casualties were caused by airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition, the panel of experts said. Coalition forces have imposed severe restrictions on Red Sea ports and Sanaa airport, depriving Yemenis of vital supplies, which may also constitute worldwide crimes, the experts said.

The Yemen government and coalition of forces, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are conducting the airstrikes, the group said.

Yemen's government, coalition forces and Houthi rebels are enlisting children as young as 8 years old into the fight.

The UN report accused the "de facto authorities" - an allusion to rebels that control some of the country's most populated western and northern areas - of crimes, including arbitrary detention, torture and child recruitment.

Experts say Saudi Arabia's perception of U.S. military failings in the Middle East has sunk Washington's credibility as it has sought to avert civilian casualties in Yemen.

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The Associated Press reported a year ago that the U.A.E. and its allied militias were running a network of secret detention facilities, beyond the control of Yemeni government.

The fighting and a partial blockade by the coalition has also left 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid, created the world's largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is thought to have affected 1.1 million people.

They add that the naval and air restrictions imposed by the coalition on rebel-held areas to halt alleged weapons smuggling may also constitute a violation of the proportionality rule of global humanitarian law, while the effective closure of Sanaa airport may violate the principle of protection for the sick and wounded.

"We determined that it was the right thing to do", Mattis said.

Former president Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided weaponry to Saudi Arabia after it used a similar bomb in an October 2016 attack that killed 140 people at a funeral in the rebel-held capital Sanaa. The US isn't directly involved in the fighting, but it backs the Saudi coalition and, along with other nations, supplies arms.

The report said "If there are errors in the targeting process that effectively remove the protections provided by worldwide humanitarian law, these would amount to violations".

The US goal was to "keep the human cost of innocents being killed accidentally to the absolute minimum" and to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table, Mattis told reporters.

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