An investigation into the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen found many cases in which civilians had been targeted, according to a report recently released by the United Nations. This troubling discovery raises questions about the role of an international coalition, which includes the United States, in supporting Saudi Arabia.
The 51-page report, submitted to the U.N. Security Council during the week of Jan. 17 but not yet published, found that these “widespread and systematic” attacks against civilian targets violated international human rights laws, The Guardian reports. Conducted by a panel of experts on Yemen, the report has sparked an international outcry over U.S. and U.K. arms exports to Saudi Arabia, as well as criticism over the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
“The panel documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including 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,” the report reads, according to The Guardian.
In 2014, Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran, seized power in Yemen, leading to the resignation of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the formation of a ruling council by Houthi militants in February 2015, CNN reported. Saudi Arabia began airstrikes in March 2015 and has since threatened to send ground troops as well; the move was supported by the U.S. and denounced by Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran.
U.S. support for Saudi Arabia has continued throughout the conflict; in November 2015, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of $1.29 billion worth of bombs to Saudi Arabia to conduct airstrikes, according to BBC. The U.K. has contributed over $9 billion in arms since Prime Minister David Cameron took office, a transaction that Cameron insists was never meant to harm civilians, The Guardian notes.
“We have the strictest rules for arms exports of almost any country anywhere in the world,” Cameron said in a statement, according to The Guardian. “We are not a member of the Saudi-led coalition, we are not directly involved in the Saudi-led coalition’s operations, British personnel are not involved in carrying out strikes.”