United Nations accuses all factions in Yemen conflict of war crimes

United Nations accuses all factions in Yemen conflict of war crimes

The report said there were "serious concerns about the targeting process applied by the coalition", pointing out that in many cases there were no apparent military targets in the vicinity of the attacks.

Victims and witnesses also described to the experts "persistent and pervasive aggressive behaviour", including sexual violence perpetrated by a pro-government force known as the Security Belt and UAE personnel, according to the report. "Our conduct there is to try and keep the human cost of innocents being killed accidentally to the absolute minimum".

In Geneva, U.N. human rights experts said on Tuesday that air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition in the war have caused heavy civilian casualties and that some may amount to war crimes.

A man inspects the wreckage of a bus at the site of a deadly Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Saada, Yemen.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in early 2015, when the Houthis seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee overseas.

The findings by a team of U.N. investigators zeroed in on airstrikes by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two close USA allies. But a former Barack Obama administration official said it's not clear that the Saudis - or their allies - will face any legal jeopardy for the recent spate of bombings. Iran has denied involvement, despite evidence that the rebels are using Iranian weaponry, including missiles. For example, the report accuses the Saudi coalition of ignoring its own "no-strike list" and hitting refugee camps and hospitals with airstrikes.

More than 17,000 Yemeni civilians were killed or injured between March 2015, when the civil war began, and last week, according to data compiled by the United Nations human rights office.

The coalition naval and air blockade on Yemen, which has brought the country to the brink of starvation, may also be a war crime, it said.

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The experts have also chronicled the damage from coalition airstrikes over the previous year.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have for years battled for control of Yemen, and a Saudi-led coalition is fighting in support of the ousted government under President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who fled the country in 2015.

The experts will present their report to the UN Human Rights Council next month.

However, he said USA support had its limits.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday defended the USA backing of the Saudi-led coalition, but said it was conditioned on the Saudis doing "everything humanly possible" to avoid civilian casualties. An attack on a funeral hall in Sanaa in October 2016 killed at least 137 civilians, according to the report.

The Pentagon believes that its assistance, which includes refueling coalition jets and training in targeting, helps reduce civilian casualties.

Mattis pushed back against questions suggesting that Yemeni children had been killed by American weapons, even though a recent report showed that the laser-guided bomb used in the attack was sold to the coalition as part of a government-backed sale of us arms.

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