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Saudi-led coalition members will prosecute those behind deadly Yemen airstrikes, spokesperson says

Rights groups have accused the coalition's investigative body of covering up war crimes

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen said it began proceedings to enable criminal trials for coalition members accused of violating international law by bombing civilians.

Speaking during a press conference in London on Wednesday, February 13, spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that the coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT) had sent evidence of violations of the rules of engagement to investigators in a preliminary step to hold members responsible.

The case involves three notorious airstrikes: the 2016 bombing of a hospital supported by French medical organization Médicins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) that killed 19 people; a 2018 airstrike on a school buys in Dahyan that killed at least 40 children; and a strike on a wedding party earlier that year in Houthi-controlled Bani Qais that killed 20 people.

“The coalition affirms its commitment to rules and provisions of international humanitarian law and holds violators of IHL, if there be any, accountable in accordance with the regulations of each coalition state,” al-Maliki said, the Guardian reported.

Maliki also said that judicial authorities have begun the trial proceedings, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

The Saudi-led military coalition – which includes the United Arab Emirates – intervened in Yemen’s civil war on the side of the government of President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi in March 2015, shortly after Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa.

The United Nations has investigated whether the Saudi-led coalition and the rebels have committed war crimes and has warned the U.S., U.K., France and Iran of possible complicity for supporting parties to the conflict.

Tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, have been killed and millions have been displaced in the conflict in Yemen, which the U.N. says is gripped by the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

A number of European countries stopped selling arms to Saudi Arabia in response to the conflict.

The U.K. government has pointed to the existence of the coalition’s JIAT investigative body, which Maliki has said operates independently, to justify continued arms sales to Riyadh.

Human rights groups have accused the JIAT of covering up alleged coalition war crimes and of repeatedly making false statements about the coalition’s adherence to international law.

With reporting from AFP.

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