Air crews with the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen are facing Saudi legal proceedings for alleged war crimes linked to a US arms firm with a base in Scotland.
The case is the first of its kind in the five-year conflict. Critics say the Saudis cannot be trusted to uphold justice.
Court martial proceedings could take place regarding three attacks, including the bombing of a school bus, when 51 people died, including 40 children. Remnants of a Paveway bomb were found at the site.
In another attack in April 2018, an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding party, killing at least 20 people.
Around 30 children were among the hurt. Some lost limbs.
Photographs taken at the site revealed the remains of a GBU-12 Paveway II-guided bomb, made in the US by Raytheon.
The third air strike hit a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in northern Yemen, killing 19 people. Again, remnants of a Paveway bomb were recovered.
Saudi coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said in London that the “procedures of the trial” had begun, with judgments to be revealed later.
The announcement was a U-turn after the Saudis initially defended the wedding bombing. But critics said they had little faith in the regime to investigate properly.
The Saudi regime has shown it can’t be trusted to uphold the human rights of Saudi people, so how can it be trusted to investigate itself for war crimes? Andrew Smith, Campaign Against Arms Trade
Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “If people are being held accountable, that is to be welcomed, but there is no reason to think justice will be done.
“The Saudi regime has shown it can’t be trusted to uphold the human rights of Saudi people, so how can it be trusted to investigate itself for war crimes?
“Over the last five years, the Saudi regime has shown a total disregard for international humanitarian law and the rights and lives of Yemeni people.
“It is not just the Saudi military that bears responsibility for these abuses. So do those that have continued to arm and support this terrible war.
“These terrible attacks would not be possible without the weapons provided by Raytheon and other shameless arms dealers.
“Time and again, Raytheon has shown there is no low it won’t sink to in order to make a profit. It is long past time for Westminster to stop the arms sales and for the Scottish Government to end its financial support for this appalling company.”
MSF said: “More than three years later, this measure, if confirmed, seems far from providing full accountability for that incident, and it can hardly be seen as providing assurances that it will not be repeated.
“In the last five years, MSF facilities in Yemen have been hit several times. Under international humanitarian law, and simple humanity, it is the responsibility of armed parties to ensure that medical facilities are not attacked.”
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP said: “The Saudi-led coalition claims its air crews will face court martial but its words ring hollow while it continues to inflict this humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen.
“Until this offensive ends, and independent investigations take place, it will be impossible to assess the full scale of brutality and illegality.
“The Scottish Government’s continued relationship with Raytheon is abhorrent and must end.”
Last Saturday, 31 people were killed in air strikes on Yemen, the United Nations said.
The violence follows an upsurge in fighting in northern Yemen between the warring parties that threatens to worsen the war-battered country’s humanitarian crisis.
The escalation follows fierce fighting around the Houthi-held capital, Sanaa, with the rebels seen to be advancing on several fronts towards Al-Hazm, the regional capital of Al-Jawf.
Photo thanks to iStock/Belal Al-shaqaqi. This story was published in the Sunday Mail on 16 February 2020.