x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 February 2018

Saudi-led coalition acknowledges ‘shortcomings’ in two Yemen strikes

A 14-member investigative team made up of coalition states the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, as well as Yemen, investigated UN claims of attacks on a residential area, hospitals, markets, a wedding and World Food Programme aid lorries.

RIYADH // The Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen on Thursday acknowledged “shortcomings” in two out of eight cases it has investigated of UN-condemned air strikes on civilian targets in the country.

A 14-member investigative team made up of coalition states the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, as well as Yemen, investigated claims of attacks on a residential area, hospitals, markets, a wedding and World Food Programme aid lorries.

“We found shortcomings in two cases while the rest were in line with international humanitarian law,” the team’s Bahraini spokesman, Mansur Al Mansur, announced in Riyadh.

They found that the coalition, which launched an air war on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in March last year, guilty of “mistakenly” hitting a residential compound in the Red Sea port city of Mokha after it had received “imprecise intelligence information”.

The strike in July last year was reported to have killed at least 65 civilians and the investigative team called on the families of victims to apply for compensation by contacting Yemen’s Saudi-backed government.

The team also held the coalition responsible for air strikes on Haydan hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the northern rebel stronghold of Saada.

Mr Al Mansur said rebels were using the hospital as a hideout in “a breach of international humanitarian law”, but the coalition should have warned MSF officials before targeting the building. No deaths had been reported in these strikes.

The team cleared the coalition of wrongdoing in the remaining six cases, including raids last year on a delivery by WFP lorries that had not coordinated with the coalition.

The lorries were also not marked to show that they belonged to an international aid organisation, Mr Mansur said.

Last month the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah Al Mouallimi, outlined a series of measures the coalition was taking to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen, in a letter to Mr Ban.

He said the coalition was in “direct dialogue” with humanitarian organisations, including MSF, to guarantee protection of medical facilities, and provided Mr Ban with details of steps taken to designate targets and ensure they have “identifiable military” aims.

* Agence France-Presse