There have been “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which at times treats entire cities as “military targets,” a United Nations panel said in an unpublished report seen and reported on by The Guardian Wednesday.
The U.N. said there were “119 coalition sorties relating to violations of international humanitarian law.” The panel of experts on Yemen used satellite imagery to look at areas before and after bombings, according to The Guardian.
“The panel also documented three alleged cases of civilians fleeing residential bombings and being chased and shot at by helicopters,” the paper reported.
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The coalition’s airstrikes also targeted “camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”
Saudi Arabia and ten of its regional allies launched the operation in March last year in a bid to reinstate their Yemeni ally, exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, after Ansarullah rebels, known also as Houthis, took control of the capital Sanaa and other parts of the country.
The U.N. report comes after the news that the U.K. has sold over US$1.4 billion worth of missiles, rockets and bombs to Saudi Arabia.
Still, the British government denies complicity in the crimes allegedly being committed with its weapons. Speaking last week, Prime Minister David Cameron defended Britain’s arms trade with the Saudis, saying the U.K. has “some of the most stringent controls anywhere in the world and I’ll always make sure they’re properly operated.”
However, the report contradicts Cameron government’s claims. The panel said the Saudi-led airstrikes “have been conducted in a widespread and systematic manner.”
“The coalition’s targeting of civilians through airstrikes, either by bombing residential neighborhoods or by treating the entire cities of Sa’dah and Maran as military targets, is a grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution,” the report said.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn described Wednesday’s report as “disturbing” and questioned whether the prime minister would address the allegations. “In the light of this, will the prime minister agree to launch immediately an inquiry and full review into the arms exports licences to Saudi Arabia and suspend those arms sales until that review has been concluded?”
Since March, more than 7,000 people have been killed in the Yemeni conflict. The U.N. agency for children, UNICEF, says nearly half of those killed have been civilians, 637 of them children.