A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition has carried out attacks in Yemen that "may amount to war crimes," the United Nations sanctions monitors reported to the body's Security Council, reminding coalition allies – including the United States, Britain and France – that they are obligated to respect international humanitarian law.
The annual report by the experts who monitor the sanctions and conflict in Yemen, seen by Reuters Saturday, investigated 10 coalition air strikes between March and October that killed at least 292 civilians, including some 100 women and children.
"In eight of the 10 investigations, the panel found no evidence that the airstrikes had targeted legitimate military objectives," the experts wrote in a 63-page report presented to the Security Council on Friday.
"For all 10 investigations, the panel considers it almost certain that the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in attack."
The report said that at least some of the attacks “may amount to war crimes," and further warned that military advisers and troops from the U.S., Britain and other Western countries, could bear some responsibility.
"All coalition member states and their allies also have an obligation to take appropriate measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by the coalition," the U.N. experts wrote.
"The panel finds that violations associated with the conduct of the air campaign are sufficiently widespread to reflect either an ineffective targeting process or a broader policy of attrition against civilian infrastructure," they added.
The Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in support of Yemeni government forces nearly two years ago to prevent Ansarullah Houthi rebels – whom it sees as a proxy for Iran – from taking complete control of Yemen after seizing much of the north.
The Houthis, who are allied with forces loyal to former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh, deny carrying out any crimes in their war effort and say they are defending the country and its civilians from Saudi-led foreign "aggression."
Saudi Arabia claims that Iran is supplying weapons to the Houthi rebels, which Tehran denies, while the U.N. report said there was not enough evidence to support the Saudi claim.
"The panel has not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply of arms from the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, although there are indicators that anti-tank guided weapons being supplied to the Houthi or Saleh forces are of Iranian manufacture," the experts said.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been accused of bombing several schools and hospitals, at least two of which belonged to the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders, killing dozens of staff and patients.
The U.N. had previously placed the blacklisted Saudi Arabia-led coalition as a violator of children's rights over the school attacks but was forced to backtrack on that decision after Saudi Arabia threatened to cut funding for U.N. programs.
Since March 2015 more than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, the majority of them civilians, according to the U.N. and other aid groups.
- Published in World