A precision-guided munition made in the USA was used in a Saudi and Emirati-led air strike carried out on June 28 of this year, on a residential home in Ta’iz governorate, Yemen, killing six civilians – including three children, Amnesty International said today.
The laser-guided bomb, manufactured by US company Raytheon and used in the attack, is the latest evidence that the USA is supplying weapons that are being used by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition in attacks amounting to serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen.
“It is unfathomable and unconscionable that the USA continues to feed the conveyor belt of arms flowing into Yemen’s devastating conflict,” said Rasha Mohamed, Amnesty International’s Yemen Researcher.
“Despite the slew of evidence that the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has time and again committed serious violations of international law, including possible war crimes, the USA and other arms-supplying countries such as the UK and France remain unmoved by the pain and chaos their arms are wreaking on the civilian population.”
Amnesty International spoke to two family members and two local residents, including two witnesses to the attack. The organization also analyzed satellite imagery and photo and video materials of the aftermath of the attack to corroborate the witness reports.
The organization’s arms expert analyzed photos of the remnants of the weapon dug out from the site of the strike by family members and was able to use product data stenciled on the guidance fin to positively identify the bomb as a US-made 500 pound GBU-12 Paveway II.
A family ripped apart
Among the six civilians killed in the attack, which took place in Warzan village in the directorate of Khadir, were a 52-year-old woman and three children, aged 12, nine and six.
One family member told Amnesty International: “We buried them the same day because they had turned into severed limbs. There were no corpses left to examine. The flesh of this person was mixed with that person. They were wrapped up [with blankets] and taken away.”
One eyewitness told Amnesty International: “I was around three minutes’ walk away working at a neighboring farm. I heard the plane hovering and I saw the bomb as it dropped towards the house. I was next to the house when the second bomb fell… and I got down onto the ground.”
The closest possible military target at the time of the attack was a Huthi Operations Room on Hayel Saeed Farm – approximately 1km away. However, that stopped operating more than two years ago after being struck by several coalition air strikes in 2016 and 2017. Witnesses told Amnesty International there were no fighters or military objectives in the vicinity of the house at the time of the attack.
A second air strike occurred in the same spot approximately 15 minutes after the first, indicating that the pilot wanted to guarantee the destruction of the al-Kindi family’s house. The home was struck again five days later while family members were at the house inspecting the site. No one was injured or killed in the latter attack.
Since March 2015, Amnesty’s researchers have investigated dozens of air strikes and repeatedly found and identified remnants of US-manufactured munitions.
“This attack highlights, yet again, the dire need for a comprehensive embargo on all weapons that could be used by any of the warring parties in Yemen,” said Rasha Mohamed.
“Serious violations continue to take place under our watch, and it is as crucial as ever that investigative bodies, namely the UN-mandated Group of Eminent Experts, are fully empowered to continue documenting and reporting on these violations.
“Arms-supplying states cannot bury their heads in the sand and pretend they do not know of the risks associated with arms transfers to parties to this conflict who have been systematically violating international humanitarian law. Intentionally directing attacks against civilians or civilian objects, disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians are war crimes.
“By knowingly supplying the means by which the Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition repeatedly violates international human rights and international humanitarian law, the USA – along with the UK and France – share responsibility for these violations.”
A recent report by the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, established by the UN Human Rights Council, concluded that the repeated patterns of air strikes carried out by the coalition raise “a serious doubt about whether the targeting process adopted by the coalition complied with [the] fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.”
The report further documents a range of serious violations and abuses by all sides to the conflict in Yemen – a conflict, which the UN states will have killed over 233,000 Yemenis by year end both as a result of the fighting and the humanitarian crisis. The UN Human Rights Council is slated to vote on the renewal of the Group of Eminent Experts today or tomorrow. Amnesty International, in coalition with other organizations, is urging states to support the Human Rights Council resolution extending and enhancing this group’s mandate.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, in 2015 the US government authorized the sale of 6,120 Paveway guided bombs to Saudi Arabia; in May 2019, President Trump bypassed Congress to authorize further sales of Paveway guided bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.