Mattis: US still backs Saudi-UAE alliance amid Yemeni deaths

Cheryl Sanders
August 29, 2018

The report concluded that "coalition air strikes have caused most of the documented civilian casualties", pointing to a large number of strikes on residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and medical facilities. It also said that the coalition's inspection procedures at the main port of Hodeidah had a "chilling effect on commercial shipping", that have resulted in limiting food shipments into Yemen, where 8.4 million people face starvation, it said.

A house destroyed by an air strike in the old quarter of Sanaa, Yemen on August 8, 2018.

A team of United Nations human rights experts have accused the US -backed, Saudi-led coalition of committing possible war crimes in Yemen, including the bombing and shelling of schools, hospitals and markets.

“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties,” said Kamel Jendoubi left the chairman of a U.N. panel

Coalition forces have imposed severe restrictions on Red Sea ports and Sanaa airport, depriving Yemenis of vital supplies, which may also constitute global crimes, the experts said.

A report for the UN Human Rights Council said all sides in the war - the Yemeni government and its Saudi-led backers as well as the Iranian-supported Houthis rebels - may have committed war crimes.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said his country's support for the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition fighting in Yemen was not unconditional but suggested the United States would continue to support the alliance as it works to reduce fallout on civilians. The U.S. has backed the Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore the ousted government. They questioned the JIAT's explanations for the air strikes that have killed civilians, and challenged its "independence and its ability to carry out impartial investigations".


"I call on them to prioritise human dignity in this forgotten conflict", he said.

The coalition's additional inspection procedures at Hudaida port have had a "chilling effect on commercial shipping", although no United Nations or coalition searches had discovered weapons being smuggled into Yemen where 8.4 million people are on the brink of starvation, it said.

The experts also said almost a dozen deadly airstrikes they investigated over the previous year "raise serious questions about the targeting process applied by the coalition". Civilians report widespread detentions, along with torture and rape.


The detailed report said both sides had conscripted child soldiers and carried out acts of torture as well as other human rights violations.

Mattis told reporters that the USA has been working with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to improve airstrike targeting and recognises that tragedies have occurred.

It was released ahead of United Nations peace talks between the government and Houthis on September 6 in Geneva.


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