08/27/2015, 00.00
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Human Rights Watch slams Saudi-led coalition for using cluster bombs in Yemen

Between April and July, the Saudis carried out at least seven attacks in which they employed such weapons with devastating effect. HRW calls for a stop to their use, urging the parties to the conflict to sign the treaty banning them. Meanwhile, joint Arab League regional force has been postponed under Saudi pressure.

Sana'a (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday urged the Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen to stop using cluster munitions, saying it had uncovered new evidence of their devastating impact.

The New York-based watchdog said that scores of civilians were killed or wounded in at least seven such apparent attacks in the northwestern province of Hajja between late April and mid-July.

Cluster bombs are a form of airdropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that releases or ejects explosive bomblets, smaller submunitions that are designed to kill personnel and destroy vehicles. However, many of the latter often remain unexploded on the ground causing damage at a later date.

"Cluster munitions are adding to the terrible civilian toll in Yemen's conflict," said HRW researcher Ole Solvang. "Coalition forces should immediately stop using these weapons and join the treaty banning them."

HRW said its researchers visited four of the alleged attack sites and found unexploded submunitions or remnants of cluster munition rockets.

Joining other NGOs, it calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to create a commission of inquiry to investigate alleged serious laws-of-war violations by all parties to the armed conflict in Yemen.

Back in January, the country became embroiled in a bloody conflict between the Saudi-backed, Sunni-dominated government and Iran-supported Houthi Shia rebels.

Since March, the Saudis have led of a coalition against the rebels, launches air strikes against their positions. At least 4,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 19 March, with an additional 6,000 wounded, this according to United Nations reports.

In Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, some of its oldest artistic sites, many classified as UNESCO heritage sites, have been destroyed during the conflict.

In the meantime, the Arab League gave to its member states four months to agree on a joint force against the Islamic State; however, this was postponed to "a date to be decided" at the request of Saudi Arabia, supported by Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar , the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

For some analysts and experts, this attitude is due to a power struggle inside the Saudi regime, as well as the latest developments in the Iran nuclear affair.

For any regional coalition to succeed against the Islamic State, it must include Sunnis and Shias, which implicitly means that both Tehran and Riyadh have to be on board.

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