UN report: U.S., France, Britain may be complicit in Yemen war crimes
The United States, Britain and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen by arming and providing intelligence and logistics support to a Saudi-led coalition that starves civilians as a war tactic, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
U.N. investigators recommended that all states impose a ban on arms transfers to the warring parties to prevent them from being used to commit serious violations.
"It is clear that the continued supply of weapons to parties to the conflict is perpetuating the conflict and prolonging the suffering of the Yememi people," Melissa Parke, an expert on the independent U.N. panel, told a news conference. "That is why we are urging member states to no longer supply weapons to parties to the conflict."
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the main parties in the coalition fighting against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls Yemen's capital, are two of the biggest buyers of U.S., British and French weapons.
Cancer patients – the other victims of Yemen's war
For more than three years a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Even hospitals are not safe from the bombing raids. Those who fall seriously ill can expect little help.
Expensive treatment: Khaled Ismael kisses the right hand of his daughter Radhiya. The 17-year-old cancer patient's left arm had to be amputated. The father could not afford better treatment, although he sold what he could and even borrowed money: "The war has destroyed our lives. We couldn't go abroad, so my daughter didnʹt receive the treatment she needed"
No government support: Yemenʹs National Oncology Centre in Sanaa has not received any government support for two years. The cancer centre is now financed through international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and donations from charities and business people
Only for children: the few beds available in the cancer clinic are reserved for children. The centre admits about 600 new cancer patients every month. Last year, however, the facility only had one million dollars to spend on treatment
Cancer therapy in the waiting room: adult patients at the cancer clinic are treated intravenously – on rickety camp beds or in the waiting room. Before the war, the centre received approximately $15 million a year in support and was even able to provide cancer drugs for other clinics in Yemen
Lack of relief supplies: a patient waits for her treatment at the cancer clinic in Sanaa. But there is a dearth of medical supplies in Yemen. The Saudi-led military coalition has severely restricted air and sea links. This was intended to stop the delivery of weapons to the Houthi rebels, who control large parts of the country and the capital
Too few doctors: Ali Hizam Mused, 70, has a tumour in his mouth. An aid organisation in Sanaa provides him and other cancer patients with shelter. There is not only a lack of beds, but also of doctors. Medical personnel are hard to find in Yemen. Moreover, many people cannot afford treatment
Humanitarian crisis: Fourteen year-old patient Amena Muhssein Owaid stands in a home for cancer patients run by a relief organisation. Millions of people in Yemen are at risk of malnourishment and diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and malaria. According to UN estimates, 50,000 people have already died as a result of the war
The experts compiled a secret list of suspected war criminals. Investigators found potential crimes on both sides, while highlighting the role Western countries play as backers of the Arab states and Iran plays in support of the Houthis.
Panel chair Kamel Jendoubi declined to reveal details of the list of suspects, adding: "What is sure is that we have gathered sufficient facts and sufficient testimonies that would allow to bring those individuals to justice at a later stage."
"There are no clean hands in this combat, in this contest," panelist Charles Garraway said.
The report accused the anti-Houthi coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE of killing civilians in air strikes and deliberately denying them food in a country facing famine. The Houthis, for their part, have shelled cities, deployed child soldiers and used "siege-like warfare", it said.
Neither the Saudi government communications office nor UAE officials responded immediately to journalists' requests for comment.
The Houthis drove Yemen's government out of the capital Sanaa in 2014. The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Muslim states intervened the following year to restore the ousted government, a conflict that has since killed tens of thousands of people.
The prospect of famine has created what the United Nations describes as the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, where 24 million people rely on aid.
The U.N. report said its independent panel had sent a secret list to U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, identifying "individuals who may be responsible for international crimes".
Its appendix lists more than 160 "main actors" among Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni government and Houthi officials, although it said this was separate from the suspects list.
Radhya Almutawakel, chair of independent Yemeni rights group Mwatana, welcomed the report's findings. "It sends a message to the parties to stop the war and that they will be held to account," she told journalists.
John Fisher of Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. Human Rights Council, which opens a three-week session on Monday, to strengthen the panel's mandate and provide "increased resources to preserve evidence, identify perpetrators and analyse command structures".
The report said: "The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other states remains questionable and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings."
It found that a Joint Incidents Assessment Team set up by Saudi Arabia to review alleged coalition violations had failed to hold anyone accountable for any strike killing civilians, raising "concerns as to the impartiality of its investigations".
"Of one thing we are pretty sure - things are going wrong in the (coalition) targeting process," Garraway said. (Reuters)