On Saturday, an investigation team with the Saudi-led coalition operations in Yemen released a statement explaining its findings of the reasons that led to the coalition’s bombing of a funeral home last weekend. Earlier this week, Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, had initially stated that the coalition had not carried out any strikes near the funeral hall. The military strike resulted in more than 140 people dead and more than 525 wounded, according to early reports. [Update: According to Human Rights Watch, the munition used in the strike was as a US-manufactured air-dropped GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bomb.] The full text (English-version) of today’s statement by the coalition’s investigation team — the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) – is below.
Notably, on Friday, a senior U.S. official told reporters that “the strike on the funeral was really, really hard to swallow. I mean, we thought that that was particularly egregious.” In the same briefing for reporters, a second senior U.S. official stated: “We just thought there was absolutely no justification for the strike. It sort of pales next to anything else that had been done before, and as a result, there was a consensus that we needed to look at the full scope of the assistance that we provide to the coalition that impacts the war, and so that’s what we have underway.”
According to the JIAT statement, the strike was the result of two problems:
- Intelligence failures: “JIAT has concluded that a party affiliated to the Yemeni Presidency of the General Chief of Staff wrongly passed information that there was a gathering of armed Houthi leaders in a known location in Sana’a.”
- Rules of engagement failures: “The Air Operations Center in Yemen directed a close air support mission to target the location without obtaining approval from the Coalition command to support legitimacy and without following the Coalition command’s precautionary measures to ensure that the location is not a civilian one that may not be targeted.”
At Just Security, we have been closely following the issue of US and UK support for the Saudi-led coalition. Stay tuned for legal analysis of these developments.
Press Statement by the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) on the Great Hall Incident in Sana’a
Riyadh, Muharram 14, 1438, Oct 15, 2016, SPA — The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) initiated an investigation into the October 8th 2016 ceremony hall bombing immediately after it sadly occurred. The Coalition Forces Command have fully cooperated with this investigation.
In a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), JIAT examined all related documents, and assessed evidence, including the rules of engagement (ROEs) and the testimonies of concerned personnel and those involved in the incident. JIAT has concluded that a party affiliated to the Yemeni Presidency of the General Chief of Staff wrongly passed information that there was a gathering of armed Houthi leaders in a known location in Sana’a, and insisted that the location be targeted immediately as a legitimate military target.
The Air Operations Center in Yemen directed a close air support mission to target the location without obtaining approval from the Coalition command to support legitimacy and without following the Coalition command’s precautionary measures to ensure that the location is not a civilian one that may not be targeted. A Coalition aircraft in the area carried out the mission, which resulted in several deaths and injuries.
JIAT has found that because of non-compliance with Coalition rules of engagement (ROEs) and procedures, and the issuing of incorrect information a Coalition aircraft wrongly targeted the location, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries.
JIAT has therefore concluded that appropriate action, in accordance with Coalition regulations, must be taken against those who caused the incident, and that compensation must be offered to the families of the victims. Moreover, Coalition forces must immediately review their rules of engagement (ROEs) and update their procedures to ensure adherence in future.
JIAT is still gathering and analyzing data related to the incident, namely reports about some sides that used this erroneous bombing to increase the number of victims, in coordination with the relevant agencies of the legitimate Yemeni government and concerned states, and will announce the results as soon as its investigations are complete.
12:28 LOCAL TIME 09:28 GMT