In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen in an attempt to support the embattled regime and counter the advances of the Houthi rebels. This coalition, supported by logistics and intelligence provided by the United States, has now been accused of war crimes in a recent report by a prominent international rights group.
“The coalition airstrikes investigated by Amnesty International in Sa’da governorate have involved serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes,” the report, published this month by Amnesty International, reads.
The U.S. provides logistical and intelligence support for the air campaign — even refueling its jets
The uprisings of the Arab Spring found their way to Yemen in 2011. Then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to step down and hand power over to his Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. But under Hadi the country was in a political deadlock and the rebel Houthis, who had faced off against Saleh in the past, mobilized their supporters in and around the capital Sanaa and began moving south. Hadi was forced south to the port city of Aden and eventually fled the country entirely.
The Saudis formed a coalition with Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates to support Hadi and counter the Houthis advances. “The U.S. provides logistical and intelligence support for the air campaign — even refueling its jets,” NPR reported last week. The bombing has proved effective in countering the advance of the Houthis, who have also committed war crimes according to international rights groups, and allowed Hadi to return to Aden after months of exile.
The campaign has however also caused considerable damage. The Amnesty report reads:
Amnesty International investigated 13 airstrikes which took place during May, June and July in and around Sa’da governorate. These strikes killed some 100 civilians — including 59 children and 22 women — and injured a further 56, including 18 children. Amnesty International found that strikes which killed and injured civilians and destroyed civilian property and infrastructure were frequently disproportionate or indiscriminate and in some instances they appeared to have directly targeted civilians or civilian objects. Such attacks violate international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes.
The Pentagon has said they’ve asked the Saudi government to investigate civilian deaths. “Hundreds have been killed in such strikes while asleep in their homes, when going about their daily activities, or in the very places where they had sought refuge from the conflict,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, wrote in Foreign Policy this past August. “The United States, meanwhile, has provided the weapons that have made many of these killings possible.”
When the Intercept’s Lee Fang asked American Senators about the alleged abuses he was largely ignored or given curt comments. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, told the Intercept “They may be bombing civilians, which is actually not true.”
Reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and the UN all claim otherwise. “Oh, I’m sure civilians die in war. Not nearly as many as the Houthis have executed,” McCain added.
This doesn’t seem to hold up against statements from the United Nations. As the New York Times reported late last month, “The strikes have prompted a series of unusually angry statements from normally cautious United Nations officials who have singled out the coalition for causing the majority of civilian deaths in Yemen’s six-month war.”