Watchdog: Saudi-led funeral attack apparent “war crime”

A recent airstrike that left more than 100 dead at a Yemeni funeral hall is "an apparent war crime," said Human Rights Watch (HRW) Thursday, arguing that the bomb used to bombard the area was US-made.

"Human Rights Watch identified the munition used as a US-manufactured air-dropped GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bomb," the statement said.

“An independent international investigation of this atrocity is needed as the coalition has shown its unwillingness to uphold its legal obligations to credibly investigate,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

HRW further called on the United States, Britain, and other governments to immediately suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said that initial reports from health officials in Sana'a indicate that more than 140 people died and more than 525 others were injured in the Saturday attack.

HRW interviewed 14 witnesses, among other sources, to the attack and two men who arrived at the scene immediately after the airstrike to help with rescue efforts, and reviewed video and photos of the strike site and weapons remnants.

Photos and video footage taken after the attack show charred and mutilated bodies strewn in and outside the hall, the building destroyed, and rescuers carrying out bodies to ambulances.

One witness said: “When I got there, there were more than 50 burned bodies, many where you can still tell the features, but half of their body was gone, half of their head was gone, but the others, it was very, very hard to tell who they were.”

Hundreds of those killed and wounded were civilians, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

HRW said that, under the laws of war, an attack is unlawfully disproportionate if it may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life or damage to civilian structures that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the attack.

“Only military personnel and civilian officials involved in military operations against the coalition would be considered legitimate targets,” the statement read.

Yemen's conflict has intensified since March 2015, when Houthi rebels advanced on the southern city of Aden, prompting Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni allies to start an air campaign in Yemen against the group. Saudi Arabia fears that the mostly Shiite rebels will give its regional rival, Shiite Iran, a strategic foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.

Meanwhile, the US military launched strikes against three radar stations in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, the Department of Defence said Wednesday. The strikes, authorized by President Barack Obama, came in response to a failed attack on a US Navy ship on Sunday, which was launched from Houthi territory. A naval vessel had detected two inbound missiles, however both fell short of their target and hit the water, according to a Pentagon statement. "The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic ... and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea," a US Department of Defence statement said. The radar sites were destroyed in the strikes, the Pentagon said. The mainly Shiite Houthis and their allies are currently battling a range of local militias, Gulf troops, loyalists of the Gulf-backed President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi and jihadists for control of Yemen.

Last update: Thu, 13/10/2016 - 14:13

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