SHAFAQNA- The United States, Britain and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen by arming and providing intelligence support to a Saudi-led coalition that starves civilians as a war tactic, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
A UN panel of experts has for the first time compiled a list of 160 military officers and politicians who could face war crimes charges, including from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Houthi and Yemeni government military forces. A secret list of those most likely to be complicit has been sent to the UN.
The report said the anti-Houthi coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of killing civilians in air raids and deliberately denying them food in a country facing famine.
“Individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, may have conducted air strikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and may have used starvation as a method of warfare, acts that may amount to war crimes,” it said , Aljazeera reported.
“The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other states remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings,” it added.
“It is clear that the continued supply of weapons to parties to the conflict is perpetuating the conflict and prolonging the suffering of the Yememi people,” Melissa Parke, an expert on the independent U.N. panel, told a news conference.
“That is why we are urging member states to no longer supply weapons to parties to the conflict,” she said.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the main parties in the coalition fighting against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital, are two of the biggest buyers of U.S., British and French weapons.
Radhya Almutawakel, chair of independent Yemeni rights group Mwatana, welcomed the report’s findings. “It sends a message to the parties to stop the war and that they will be held to account,” she told Reuters.
The UN report will very likely be used as further evidence for those demanding that the British government end arms sales to Saudi for use in Yemen.
“This shocking report should act as a wake-up call to the UK government. It offers all the proof needed of the misery and suffering being inflicted on the people of Yemen by a war partly fuelled by UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other coalition members,” said Oxfam’s Yemen country director, Muhsin Siddiquey.
The UK court of appeal on 20 June ruled that arms sales to Saudi Arabia have continued without proper UK investigation of the risk of war crimes being committed by the Saudi-led coalition and required the UK government to set out what it had done to rectify this. The UK government is due to provide its response, possibly this month.
Airstrikes by the Saudi-led military coalition in south-west Yemen on Sunday hit a prison complex, killing scores of people, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Set up by the UN human rights council two years ago, the panel appears determined to introduce some individual accountability into the conduct of the war.
Yemeni government forces, including those backed by the UAE, continue to arbitrarily detain, threaten and otherwise target individuals who openly questioned or criticised them, including political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders and religious leaders, the report said. At least 13 journalists and media workers are in detention in Sana’a on charges relating to their work.
The UN panel said it received allegations that Emirati and affiliated forces tortured, raped and killed suspected political opponents detained in secret facilities at Bir Ahmed prison II, al-Bureiqa and numerous unofficial detention sites. It found many detainees were tortured, including by electrocution, hanging by the arms and legs, sexual violence and long periods of solitary confinement.
The UN has documented at least 7,292 civilians killed (including at least 1,959 children and 880 women) and 11,630 civilians injured (including 2,575 children and 1,256 women ) in Yemen as a direct result of the armed conflict between March 2015 (when it began such tracking) and June 2019. The overall death toll is thought to be much higher, The Guardian reported.
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