lev radin via shutterstock
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting regarding the situation in Yemen at U.N. headquarters in New York on Aug. 2. (lev radin via shutterstock)

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy this week called for the United States military to withdraw from Yemen, citing a newly released report from the United Nations claiming it is likely that war crimes are being committed with U.S. weapons and supervision.

“I hope this report is a huge wake up call for Congress and the administration,” Murphy said. “This isn’t who we are.”

The United Nations this week released a 41-page report from the “Group of Regional and International Eminent Experts on Yemen” that said air attacks by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition have caused the most direct civilian casualties in the Yemeni civil war, and a blockade of Yemeni ports and airspace may have violated international humanitarian law. The U.S. has provided munitions, aerial refueling and other logistical support to those forces over the past three years.

The report notes that coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties. The airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities. Based on the incidents they examined, the Group of Experts has reasonable grounds to believe that individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that may amount to war crimes.

“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call on them to prioritise human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen. 

According to the U.N. Human Rights Office, between March 2015 and August 23, 2018, 6,660 civilians were killed and 10,563 injured; however, the real figures are likely to be significantly higher.

“The U.N. Panel of Experts on Yemen says it’s likely war crimes are being committed with U.S. weapons and supervision, and yet Washington is taking zero actions in response. How can Congress continue to fund this war in the face of U.S.-supported war crimes?” said Murphy. “There is simply no way our participation in this cataclysm of civilian deaths is making our country more safe. The world is seeing what we are doing in Yemen, and they wonder what America stands for anymore.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon this week that the United States has been and will continue to work with Saudis and the Emirates to reduce any “chance of innocent people being injured or killed.”

“We recognize that we are watching a war in which the Houthi-led effort involves launching weapons out of residential areas into Saudi Arabia. We recognize the complexity of it,” he said. “At no time have we felt rebuffed or ignored when we bring concerns to them.”

Murphy last week attempted to prohibit funding in a fiscal 2019 spending bill from being used by the Pentagon to support the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen until Mattis certified the air campaign is not violating international law. His amendment, however, was not considered after Republicans objected.

Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicated that he would introduce a joint resolution of disapproval to reject a planned sale of precision-guided munitions to the region should the Trump administration formally move forward with the proposal. He offered a similar resolution in March that was rejected in the Senate, 55-44.