Unlawful attacks by Coalition against Yemenis: Report
Coalition member countries have sought to avoid international legal liability by refusing to provide information on their forces’ role in unlawful attacks.
Since March 2015, the coalition has conducted scores of indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes killing thousands of civilians and hitting civilian objects in violation of the laws of war, using munitions sold by the United States, United Kingdom, and others, including widely banned cluster munitions.
Human Rights Watch has documented at least 90 apparently unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, including deadly attacks on Yemeni fishing boats that have killed dozens and appeared to be deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects in violation of the laws of war.
At time of writing, according to the Yemen Data Project, the Saudi-led coalition has conducted more than 20,100 airstrikes on Yemen since the war began, an average of 12 attacks a day. The coalition has bombed hospitals, school buses, markets, mosques, farms, bridges, factories, and detention centers.
According to data collected by the Yemen Data Project, nearly two-thirds of the coalition’s air raids have struck non-military and unknown targets.
Airports, ports, bridges and roads have all been repeatedly attacked.
So, too, have farms, schools, oil and gas facilities, factories and private businesses.
According to rights groups, the coalition has not accidentally attacked civilian infrastructure – it has been doing it deliberately.
Because of these incessant attacks, Yemen’s civilian, economic and medical infrastructures have been pushed to the brink of collapse.
In August 2019, the Saudi-led coalition carried out multiple airstrikes on a Houthi detention center, killing and wounding at least 200 people. The attack was the single deadliest attack since the war began in 2015.
The United States has been a party to the war and may be complicit in unlawful coalition attacks in which it took part. The US has provided in-air refueling and other tactical support to coalition forces, but has not provided detailed information on the extent and scope of its engagement.
The UK has provided training and weaponry to members of the coalition.
The US, UK, France, and others have continued to sell munitions and other arms to Saudi Arabia and other coalition states, despite the coalition’s frequent unlawful attacks. A number of US and UK lawmakers have challenged their governments’ continuation of these sales. UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia face ongoing litigation.
In 2018, the European Parliament called on EU member states to suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia due to its conduct in Yemen, decried coalition war crimes, and called for sanctions against those responsible for obstructing humanitarian assistance.
The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg jointly presented the resolution at the UN Human Rights Council to continue the mandate of an independent international investigation.
The UN Security Council, in Resolutions 2140 (2014) and 2216 (2015), established a sanctions regime in Yemen whereby individuals that have violated international human rights law or international humanitarian law, or obstructed the delivery of humanitarian assistance, are potentially subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
Victims and survivors of these Coalition attacks often likened the devastation of the airstrikes to the “Day of Judgment.”
In an April 2018 Coalition attack in Hajjah Governorate, a joyous wedding celebration quickly turned tragic when a US-made bomb exploded, killing at least twenty-one and injuring at least ninety-seven drummers, dancers, and wedding guests, including nearly sixty children.
In a December 2016 attack on a civilian home, also in Hajjah Governorate, a US-made cluster bomb indiscriminately killed at least fifteen civilians—nine of them children—and wounded at least seven. 10-year-old Ahmad Mansour lost his mother and siblings in the attack, in addition to suffering extensive shrapnel injuries himself.
These Saudi/UAE-led Coalition attacks demonstrate the manner in which the Coalition has conducted its campaign in Yemen, often with the assistance of US weapons.
The Saudi-led coalition has used at least six types of widely banned cluster munitions produced in Brazil, the US, and the UK.
Landmines have killed and maimed civilians, disrupted civilian life in affected areas, and will pose a threat to civilians long after the war ends.
As the UAE and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have arbitrarily detained people, including children, abused detainees and held them in poor conditions, and forcibly disappeared people perceived to be political opponents or security threats.
Yemeni human rights groups and lawyers have documented hundreds of cases of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance.
Human Rights Watch has documented the UAE, UAE proxies, and Yemeni government forces arbitrarily detaining, torturing, and forcibly disappearing scores of people in areas of southern Yemen, which is nominally under Hadi-government control.
In 2018, the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen concluded that Saudi, and UAE forces were credibly implicated in detainee-related abuse that might amount to war crimes. The UAE has run informal detention facilities in Yemen, but has not acknowledged any role in detainee abuse nor conducted any apparent investigations.
The human cost of this aggression is unbearable.
The war in Yemen, currently in its fifth year, has already killed tens of thousands of people and sparked what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Time is of the essence. Millions of Yemenis are on the brink of starvation. Unlawful attacks continue, as the civilian toll of the war rises.