JIAT refutes some claims of incidents in Yemen

Riyadh, Spokesman for the Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT) in Yemen Mansour Al-Mansour, reviewed at a press conference held here today final findings of the claims received from some international governmental and non-governmental organizations.

With regard to Human Rights Watch's report dated (11/07/2016) stating that the Coalition Air Forces raided Al Shehab Industrial Complex in the northern part of Sanaa at 9pm on 29/01/2016. The first explosion took place outside one of the warehouses while the second was outside the premises of the factory leaving no injuries. Other four raids hit the factory at 2 p.m. on (30/01/2016) and caused damages to the entire warehouses. One guard was killed, two other guards and one employee were injured and eight cars were damaged.

The JIAT investigated the incident. Having reviewed all documents including the rules of engagement, daily mission schedules, after mission report, mission video recording, satellite images, provisions and principles of the international humanitarian law and customary rules and assessment of evidences, the JIAT found out that on Thursday (28/01/2016), intelligence information reported that Al-Houthi armed militias had promoted their presence in certain locations in Sanaa. Therefore, the Coalition forces focused their intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance operations over such areas. Trucks were detected coming out of one of an armour locations (previously targeted). After follow-up, it became clear that such trucks were discharged in warehouses (Al Shehab Complex). It was made sure that the warehouses (of Al Shehab Complex) were used by Al-Houthi forces for military purposes based on the intelligence information and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance operations with the aim to support war efforts. Therefore, it lost its legal protection of civil properties (complex warehouses) considering them as a legitimate military target, their destruction would achieve a military advantage on grounds of the customary rules of the international humanitarian law.

Thus, at 10pm on Friday (29th Jan. 2016), after making sure there were no civilians in the locations, the Coalition air forces executed an air mission on armouries in (Al Shehab Complex) using two bombs. The first bomb fell between two armouries inside the Complex and caused partial damages. The second fell in an open area about (100m) away from the Complex due to a technical failure in the guidance systems and no damages were reported. This led the mission commander to cease the attack.

As the first task failed to achieve the desired objectives, and following intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance operations which confirmed the continuous use of these warehouses as armouries by Al-Houthi armed militias, and on Saturday (30 Jan. 2016) coalition forces after making sure that there were no civilians on the site executed an aerial attack which hit targets accurately and directly.

In the light of that, the JIAT found that the procedures taken by the Coalition Forces were correct in dealing with the legitimate military target (armouries) in accordance with the international humanitarian law and its customary rules.

With regard to Amnesty International's report dated (18th /08/2015) stating that the Coalition Forces bombed a house in Magalia District south of Taiz at 03:45 am on (16/06/2015) causing the death of five people dead. According to the allegation, on that night three air raids targeted Magalia District with minute intervals between the raids. The first bomb hit Arwa School, which was alleged to be used by Al-Houthi and Saleh troops as detention centers. The second hit a house located 30 meters away from Arwa School. The third fell in courtyard of the same house which cellar was the shelter of 13 people hiding there following hearing the sound of the previous explosions. Fortunately, the bomb that rested few meters away from the house door didn't explode, a matter which limited the size of destruction and injuries among civilians.

The JIAT investigated the incident. Having reviewed all documents including the rules of engagement, the surveillance and reconnaissance reports, the daily mission schedules, the after mission report, mission video recordings, satellite images, provisions and principles of the International Humanitarian Law and Customary Rules and evidences assessment, JIAT found that at 05:28pm on Saturday (13/06/2015), and on based on reliable intelligence information obtained by the Coalition forces, regarding extensive presence of Al-Houthi armed militias in (Majalia) District (Taizz) Governorate, which were ready to attack locations of the legitimate Yemeni forces. Furthermore, leaders and groups of Al-Houthi militias occupied (Arwa School). This was considered a legitimate military target of high value which destruction would achieve a military advantage. According to Article 52/3 of Protocol (II) Additional to the Geneva Conventions, it lost its legal protection for being used by Al-Houthi armed militias in fighting operations.

Surveillance and reconnaissance task was also undertaken to continuously update the intelligence information and guarantee certainty degrees pursuant to customary rule No. 16 of the Customary International Humanitarian Law and according to the targeting plan and proper timing based on customary rule No. 7 of the Customary International Humanitarian Law to ensure reducing collateral damages to minimum.

Therefore, at 03:00am Tuesday (16/06/2015), the Coalition Air Forces conducted an air mission on a legitimate military target against leaders and troops of Al-Houthi armed militias occupying Arwa School, using two guided bombs, which hit its target.

After reviewing the video recordings, after mission report and satellite images, JIAT found that the Coalition Air Forces had taken the necessary procedures to reduce the collateral damages to minimum as follows:

1. The attack was made at a time where no civilians were present in the site, at 03:00am.

2. The Coalition Forces used two guided bombs of high accuracy in the targeting operation. The bombs accurately hit the target inside the location, however one of them didn't explode for technical faults.

3. JIAT didn't find out that a bomb fell down over a house located 30 meters away from Arwa School as alleged.

4. JIAT didn't find out that a third bomb fell down over a house courtyard as alleged.

In the light of that, JIAT found that the procedures taken by the Coalition Forces were correct and legitimate in targeting the leaders and groups of Al-Houthis armed militias occupying Arwa School in accordance with the International Humanitarian Law And Its Customary Rules. It also found that the Coalition Air Forces did not target a house and its courtyard as alleged.

According to a report of the Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) dated (4/02/2018), that during the clashes between the Yemeni Government and Al-Houthi Movement, and although registering a great number of places by the Coalition Forces in the No Strike List to avoid damages and incidents that may affect the UN offices, staff and facilities in Yemen, but on (31st Jan 2018) an air raid launched at 1:30 AM local time hit a target located 30 meters away from the residence of one of the employees of Refugee Affairs Commission in Sanaa leaving simple injuries of family members and damages inside and outside the house.

JIAT investigated the incident. Having reviewed all documents including the rules of engagement, the daily mission schedules, after mission report, video recordings, satellite images, provisions and principles of the International Humanitarian Law And Customary Rules and assessment of evidences, JIAT found that reliable intelligence regarding (6) containers loaded with arms and ammunition inside a fenced location in Sanaa Governorate, which was considered a legitimate military target of high value, the destruction of which would achieve a military privilege.

Thus, the Coalition Forces executed an air mission against the mentioned containers using (concrete) non-explosive guided bombs which hit the targets.

After JIAT's review and consideration of the targeting videos and satellite images, it became clear that the residence of the Commission was located approximately (70) meters away from the target and there was no sign of aerial bombardment on the residence.

It should be noted that a secondary explosions and fragments were seen after the attack, which proved the accuracy of information on which the targeting of the site was based. Such secondary explosions may lead to collateral damages to residence of the Refugee Affairs Commission staff, which had been on the No Strike List by the Coalition Forces.

In the light of that, the JIAT found that the procedures taken by the Coalition Forces were correct in dealing with the legitimate military target. JIAT saw that it was proper to offer assistance to the Refugee Affairs Commission for the collateral damages that affected the residence of one of its employees due to such secondary explosions.

With regard to the report received by the JIAT from the National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations to Human Rights on the Coalition Air Forces' bombardment of (Abdulwahab Gas Station) with two missiles at 2:30pm on (27th May 2015). The station was controlled by Al-Houthi and Saleh militias to provide them with oil products. It was closed two weeks before the bombardment. The Militias had a checkpoint near the station where a large number of them used to gather there. A week before the incident, the checkpoint was moved near the (Customs building). The place was a gathering place for passengers. And directly beside the station, buses for transporting passengers to the areas and villages of Kubaytah Governorate were waiting. The bombardment left 37 dead persons.

JIAT investigated the incident. Having reviewed all documents including the rules of engagement, the daily mission schedules, the after mission report, video recordings of the performed mission, satellite images, provisions and principles of the International Humanitarian Law And Customary Rules, and assessment of evidences including intelligence relied upon, and its sources, JIAT found out that on Wednesday (27th May 2015) intelligence delivered by highly reliable sources to the Coalition forces that there was a number of Al-Houthi armed militias leaders in a building located behind a gas station in Taiz Governorate, which was occupied by Al-Houthi armed militias, a matter which required immediate targeting of those leaders. This was considered a legitimate military target of high value which destruction would achieve a military advantage according to Article 52/2 of Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions. With the degrees of verification (intelligence information) stating the existence of leaders of Al-Houthi armed forces in a building behind a gas station in Taizz Governorate according to the Customary Rule No. (16),

The building lost its legal protection of civil properties due to its effective contribution to the military operations carried out by Al-Houthi militias, a matter which is considered a violation of Article 52/3 of Protocol (II) Additional to the Geneva Conventions. Therefore, on Wednesday (27th May 2015), the Coalition Air Forces performed an air mission on the building where leaders from Al-Houthi armed militias were present, located east of (Al-Rahidah) City of Taizz Governorate using one guided bomb which hit the target.

After reviewing the satellite images that were updated after the date of allegation, JIAT found the following:

1. Sign of the aerial strike on the building where a number of Al-Houthi armed militia leaders were existing.

2. The Gas Station had NO signs of aerial strike.

3. Other buildings near the Gas Station had NO signs of aerial strike.

In the light of that, the JIAT found that the procedures taken by the Coalition Air Forces were correct in dealing with the legitimate military target (Al-Houthi armed militia leaders) in accordance with the International Humanitarian Law And Its Customary Rules.

With regard to the report of the Panel of Experts on Yemen No. (S/2018/68) issued on (26th Jan 2018) stating that two bombs of an aerial raid hit a residential building in (Hajja) at (13:30) on (2nd Sep. 2017), on the second day of Aed (Feast). The incident left 4 people dead and 8 injured. The report also included that the Coalition Forces used a (MK82-MK84) guided bomb equipped with a guiding unit of (Paveway) model.

JIAT investigated the incident. Having reviewed all documents including the rules of engagement, the daily mission schedules, the after mission report, video recordings of the performed mission, satellite images, provisions and principles of the International Humanitarian Law And Customary Rules, and assessment of evidences including intelligence relied upon, and its sources, JIAT found that on Saturday (2/09/2017) and based on coalition's intelligence regarding a leader of Al-Houthi militias, whose name and phone number was registered in the intelligence surveillance present in a building in Hejja Governorate, intelligence surveillance detected conversations over two hours directing to receive qualitative weapons from a pick-up vehicle heading to the building where such leader was present, also he described the building as a (command building). In addition, there was a number of Al-Houthi armed militias in the building. These were considered two legitimate military targets of high value which destruction would achieve a military advantage according to Article 52/2 of Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions.

Therefore, verification was in accordance with customary rule No. 16, and identified them as legitimate military targets that lost the legal protection of civilian objects for their effective contribution to support the military effort of Al-Houthi armed militia, contrary to Article 52 (3) of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions.

On Saturday (2/09/2017), Coalition forces after the observation of the arrival of a vehicle loaded with arms in front of the designated building carried out an aerial strike on the (vehicle) loaded with arms, and on the (building where Al-Houthi commander was present) and used as a command building, using two guided bombs that hit their targets.

Having examined the documents relating to the implemented military operation, JIAT found that the building, the subject matter of the claim, was on top of a mountain in (Washhah) District in Hajjah Governorate, (39 km) from the international border of the Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia. JIAT found that the Coalition air forces has taken the possible precautions to prevent and minimize accidental loss or damage to civilian objects, by the use of two guided bombs, which were proportional to the target size. This is according to Article 57 of Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions and customary rules No. (15 and 17).

Intelligence reports and other sources reviewed by JIAT also confirmed that the area of the claim (Washhah) was an area controlled by the Al-Houthi armed militia from which the fronts are supported by fighters, arms and supply.

In the light of that, the JIAT confirmed the validity of the procedures taken by the Coalition forces in targeting a vehicle loaded with arms and the Houthi leader who was present in the building that was used as a command building in accordance with the International Humanitarian Law and Its Customary Rules.

Source: Saudi Press Agency