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France, UK & US may be held responsible for Yemen war crimes, says UN report

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Red Crescent medics carry a body of the victim of Saudi-led airstrikes on a Houthi detention centre in Dhamar, Yemen, September 1, 2019.
Red Crescent medics carry a body of the victim of Saudi-led airstrikes on a Houthi detention centre in Dhamar, Yemen, September 1, 2019. -
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REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
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Britain, France and the United States could be held responsible for human rights violations in Yemen, a group of UN experts said.

The experts wrote in their report that both sides of the Yemen conflict — the Saudi-backed pro-government forces and the Houthis rebels backed by Iran — are responsible for war crimes including arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, child recruitment, starvation, and indiscriminate airstrikes.

But the report also stated that third states with a "specific influence on the parties to the conflict" through intelligence, logistical support or arms transfers could also be held responsible for the violations.

"Such is the case of France, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America," they wrote.

"States are obliged to take all reasonable measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by other states. Furthermore, the Arms Trade Treaty, to which France and the United Kingdom are parties, prohibits the authorisation of arms transfers with the knowledge that these would be used to commit war crimes," they went on.

"The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other states remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings," they added.

A UK government spokesperson said the country "has been at the forefront of international efforts to bring a diplomatic solution to the appalling conflict in Yemen. We operate one of the most robust export control regimes in the world".

Euronews also contacted the French government for comment.

The report calls for an immediate end of violence against civilians and the use of sexual violence and child recruitment by the various parties taking part in the conflict as well as any action that could hinder the rapid deployment of humanitarian aid to the population.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that at least 7,292 civilians — including 1,959 children — have been killed between March 2015 and June 2019 as the result of the armed conflict with an additional 11,630 wounded. It warned however that the situation on the ground makes it difficult to keep a reliable tally and that the figures may be much higher.

The Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi movement have denied committing war crimes. The UN experts said in their report that they have identified individuals they suspect of having carried out human rights violations and that they have transmitted those names to the Commissioner.

They also included a list of 160 names they say are the main actors in the conflict. The list includes Saudi, Emirati, Yemeni — from both sides of the conflict — politicians and army brass but does not disclose whether they also feature in the list transferred to the Commissioner.