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Saudi-led coalition accused of war crimes in Yemen

Amnesty International also seeks end to arms transfers to coalition members, citing evidence of ‘unlawful air strikes’

Amnesty International on Wednesday accused the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen of carrying out unlawful air strikes, some of which amount to war crimes, and called for the suspension of transfers of arms transfers to coalition members.

Amnesty said in a report (PDF) that it had examined 13 deadly air strikes by the coalition that had killed about 100 civilians, including 59 children in Yemen. The report also documents the use of cluster bombs.

"This report uncovers yet more evidence of unlawful air strikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes. It demonstrates in harrowing detail how crucial it is to stop arms being used to commit serious violations of this kind," said Amnesty's Donatella Rovera, who headed the group's fact-finding mission to Yemen.

"The USA and other states exporting weapons to any of the parties to the Yemen conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the arms transfers they authorize are not facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law."

Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates are participating in the coalition. 

Amnesty said its researchers had found remnants of two types of internationally banned cluster bombs as it investigated attacks on Saada, a Houthi stronghold in northeastern Yemen.

Another rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, in August accused Saudi forces of using cluster bombs in Yemen. A spokesman for the coalition denied the allegation. 

Cluster bombs indiscriminately scatter smaller submunitions — often called bombies or bomblets — across a wide area, and can remain buried, unexploded, decades after a bombing campaign ends.

Amnesty also said cases had been documented of civilians who were not directly participating in hostilities but were killed or injured while asleep or carrying out their daily activities.

“The designation of large, heavily populated areas as military targets and the repeated targeting of civilian homes are telling examples revealing the coalition forces’ flagrant failure to take sufficient precautions to avoid civilian loss of life as required by international humanitarian law,” said Rovera.

It said that in at least four of the air strikes investigated, "homes attacked were struck more than once, suggesting that they had been the intended targets despite no evidence they were being used for military purposes”.

Another Amnesty report, published in August, condemned all sides in the Yemen conflict over the killing of civilians. 

Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis captured Sanaa in September 2014.

The Houthis are fighting alongside army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces loyal to exiled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi as well as southern separatists and local militias. A Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition has been launching airstrikes against the fighters since March.

More than 2,300 civilians have been killed in the conflict since March, the UN Human Rights office said late September.

Pro-Houthi forces have been accused of indiscriminately shelling populated areas in violation of the laws of war, killing civilians.

Al Jazeera

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