UN: Saudi-led coalition behind deadly Yemen migrant boat attack

UN blames Saudi-led coalition for deadly attack on Yemen migrant boat
2 min read
26 July, 2017
The UN has accused a Saudi-led military coalition of an attack on a Somali migrant boat in March which killed dozens of people.
Dozens of people died in the attack on the refugee boat earlier in March. [Getty]

The United Nations has accused a Saudi-led military coalition of an attack on a Somali migrant boat in March which killed dozens of people, accusing the alliance of covering up blame on individual coalition members.

The attack, which took place on March 16, resulted in the deaths of at least 42 of the 140 Somali refugees on board, and one Yemeni civilian.

At least 34 people were also injured.

"This civilian vessel was almost certainly attacked using a 7.62 mm caliber weapon from an armed utility helicopter," UN investigators wrote in a confidential report seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

"The Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces are the only parties to the conflict that have the capability to operate armed utility helicopters in the area," the report to the Security Council said.

The helicopter was likely operating from a navy vessel, it added. Two other attacks on fishing vessels by helicopter or naval boats killed 11 people in the Red Sea in March.

The Saudi-led coalition, Egypt, the UAE and the Combined Maritime Forces did not respond to the investigators requests for information.

'Impunity for violations'

The UN report said the attack violated international humanitarian law. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch said the attack on fleeing refugees was likely a war crime

"Some individual member states of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition seek to hide behind 'the entity' of the coalition to shield themselves from state responsibility for violations committed by their forces," the UN investigators said.

"Attempts to divert responsibility in this manner from individual states to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition may contribute to further violations continuing with impunity," they wrote, according to Reuters.

The coalition receives US arms and logistical support, while the UK has licensed around £3.3 billion ($4.25 bln) in arms sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

Earlier this month, a UK court ruled Britain's arms sales to Saudi Arabia were lawful, despite concerns over the civilian death toll during Riyadh's bombing campaign in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition's war against Houthi rebels in Yemen has cost more than 13,000 lives since March 2015 and brought the country to the brink of famine.

More than 370,000 people have fallen ill and 1,800 have died since late April in Yemen's second cholera outbreak in less than a year.

More than 600,000 people are expected to contract cholera in Yemen this year as the war-torn country's healthcare system faces collapse.

Agencies contributed to this report.