Coalition refutes claims on errors in Yemen

By Eudore R. Chand

RIYADH 11 March 2020: The Joint Incidents Assessment Team on Yemen has refuted international allegations accusing the Coalition Forces of perpetrating a number of errors during their military operations in Yemen.

JIAT Spokesman, legal advisor Mansour Al Mansour, held a news conference yesterday and contested the claims filed by UN agencies, international organisations and media outlets. He issued he following statement which was carried by the Saudi Press Agency and Wam.

The Allegations

“With regards to what was stated in: 1. The Human Rights Watch’s report issued on (21/08/2019), that at approximately (3:00) pm on (21/08/2018), the Coalition Naval Forces attacked a fishing boat with (19) sailors on board, off the coast of Eritrea, (7) fishermen were killed in the attack, and the remaining (12) were detained by Saudi Forces, of whom (3) suffered from burns, and another was seriously injured, the seriously injured fisherman was evacuated by helicopter to a military hospital for treatment, while (11) others were taken on a boat and a car to a medical clinic in Saudi Arabia, and from there to a detention facility near (Jizan) port, southwest of the Kingdom.

2. An article in the New York Times issued on (17/12/2018), that on (22/08/2018), an attack took place on (Al-Ansar) boat when a warship escorting a Saudi oil tanker killed (7) people, but the warship did not sail away this time. The twelve survivors who were rescued out of the water were taken to the Saudi city of (Jizan), they were held for three months, during which they were tortured, according to many of them.

JIAT Response

JIAT vetted the incident, and reviewed all documents, including procedures and rules of engagement, the daily events log for the Coalition Naval Forces, the event log for the Coalition Naval units, the field visit and provisions and principles of International Humanitarian Law and its customary rules, and assessment of evidences, JIAT found the following:

1. Intelligence information was received by the Coalition Forces, that Al-Houthi armed militia were about to carry out attacks on Coalition Forces ships and oil tankers in the Red Sea.

2. The presence of Coalition Forces ships in the area of operations to implement the mission of maritime embargo, as well as escorting oil tankers south of the Red Sea.

3. At (3:00) pm on Tuesday (21/08/2018), the aircraft attached to one of the Coalition Force ships was carrying out an armed reconnaissance mission in front of the warship and the oil tanker convoy, it spotted a boat approaching the convoy, the aircraft informed the ship of that, and after taking directions from the captain of the ship, and when the boat continued approaching the convoy and reached a distance that posed a threat to the convoy, it was warned by warning shots, and as a result, the boat changed its direction away from the convoy and was not dealt with.

4. At (4:00) pm on the same day, the aircraft attached to the ship spotted two boats approaching the convoy, the aircraft informed the ship of that, and after taking directions from the captain of the ship, and when the two boats continued approaching the convoy and reached a distance that posed a threat to the convoy they were warned by warning shots, and as a result, one of them responded to the warnings and turned away and was not dealt with, but the other boat did not change its course and continued approaching the convoy despite the precautionary measures, and after reaching a distance that represented an imminent danger to the convoy, it was dealt with, according to the approved Rules Of Engagement, and to the legitimate right to self-defense.

5. The Coalition Naval Forces took the necessary precautions in dealing with boats according to the Rules Of Engagement, and according to paragraph (46) of the (San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts At Sea) approved in June 1994, by warning the boats against approaching the convoy, however, one of them did not change its course and continued to approach the convoy until it reached a distance that represents an imminent danger to the convoy, so it was dealt with and neutralized its danger. The two other boats who complied with the warning and sailed away from the convoy were not targeted.

6. The ship carried out a (Search and Rescue) operation in the area, (12) people were rescued, one of whom was injured was evacuated by air to a Jizan hospital, in compliance with the rules of engagement, and according to Articles (7) and (8) of the Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.

7. JIAT also reviewed the investigations carried out by the Coalition Forces, whereby (3) of those arrested admitted that they belong to Al-Houthi armed militia and it was not proved that they were tortured, and the rest were released.

In light of that, JIAT found that the procedures taken by Coalition Forces, in dealing with the legitimate military target (the boat) that posed an imminent danger to the maritime convoy were correct, and in accordance with the International Humanitarian Law and its customary rules.”

Dubai Gazette