Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Joint Assessment Team defends Arab Coalition in Yemen

The Saudi-based body disputed five allegations by international organisations

Smoke rises after an air strike on a military site in Sanaa. Reuters
Smoke rises after an air strike on a military site in Sanaa. Reuters

An independent assessment team in Saudi Arabia has rejected accusations by international bodies criticising the Arab Coalition for its conduct in the war in Yemen.

The UN Human Rights Commission, International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International and other organisations have released reports alleging human rights breaches in Yemen.

Using documents provided by the Arab Coalition, including mission briefings, video recordings and satellite imagery, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team concluded that allegations made by the international organisations were incorrect.

Mansour Al Mansour, the spokesman for the group in Riyadh, on Tuesday said international news organisations had falsely reported breaches by the Saudi-led coalition.

An Amnesty International report published in August 2015 claimed a coalition air strike killed 10 civilians in Al Akma, a village near Taez.

But after reviewing mission briefings, Mr Al Mansour concluded that the Arab Coalition did not conduct any air operations on April 14, 2015, the day of the alleged attack.

Mission briefings from the day after the alleged incident reported an air strike 12 kilometres from Al Akma.

Review of satellite imagery from the day after the attack showed Al Akma had not sustained air strike damage, Mr Al Mansour said.

One report by the Red Cross last year on March 17 claimed an Arab Coalition helicopter attacked fishing boats 45 kilometres off the coast of Hodeidah two days earlier. The attack reportedly killed seven and injured eight.

But Mr Al Mansour said the nearest Arab Coalition vessel was stationed 242km off the coast and was approached by a boat carrying five people.

The ship fired three warning shots and observed the approaching boat retreat, security investigation records showed.

Shortly afterwards, the Arab Coalition vessel saw two boats sailing in its direction. The boats ignored warning shots.

The coalition ship fired at one of the boats with “light-weapon rounds based on the inherent right of self-defence”, Mr Al Mansour said.

Eight men were rescued and taken to a hospital. The ninth was never found.

The assessment team “reviewed the security investigations report of the ones rescued, where they acknowledged their affiliation with the armed Houthi militia, and that their proximity to the vessel was for military purposes”, Mr Al Mansour said.

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In an email sent to the team, the UN Human Rights Commission said the Arab Coalition had launched an air strike on a house killing four people on May 9.

After reviewing the available information, the team concluded that credible intelligence suggested the building had been harbouring Houthi militias.

It “confirms the procedures of the Coalition Forces in targeting the building in question and that they were carried out in accordance with customary international humanitarian law,” UAE news agency Wam reported Mr Al Mansour as saying.

In its 2015 annual report, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees alleged that the Arab Coalition forces carried out air strikes in Hajjah province on June 7 of that year. The agency claimed the strike killed four civilians and injured 41.

The team said that a single air strike was carried out on a Houthi military target in Hajjah province, about 12km from the Saudi border. The attack was conducted according to credible intelligence.

Mr Al Mansour said “different media outlets” reported four different Arab Coalition air strikes on the headquarters of the government fisheries body in Port Khobah, Hodeidah on January 7 this year. The claimed attack was reported to have killed five people and injured another five.

That incident occurred after Coalition air forces received intelligence from credible sources that confirmed the presence of Houthi naval engineers at an old ice factory in the port city, Mr Al Mansour said.

The source relayed to coalition officers that Houthis were preparing a guided-missile attack and equipping boats with self-destruct mechanisms.

The ensuing attack destroyed an adjoining ice factory and damaged a nearby hangar. The team maintains that the area was “civilian and civilian-vehicle free”.

“In the light of that, the team confirms the validity of the Coalition air force procedures in targeting” the area, “and that they were carried out in accordance with customary international humanitarian law”, Mr Al Mansour said.

Updated: December 26, 2018 06:08 PM

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