By Arab News
By Mohammed Al-Sulaimi
The fact-finding team found coalition forces responsible for 16 out of 85 incidents the team was able to fully investigate, the spokesman for the Joint Incident Assessment Team in Yemen, Mansour Al-Mansour, confirmed.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Al-Mansour said that the team welcomes the announcement made by the leadership of the Arab Coalition Forces Supporting Legitimacy in Yemen in which the coalition accepted the results of investigations reached by the Joint Incident Assessment Team, stressing that the incident had a significant impact on human rights organizations and official bodies in friendly countries.
Al-Mansour said the team started its investigations immediately after the incident and reached the results announced in the press conference.
He added that the coalition forces or the authorities responsible for the operation, as well as the legal bodies in the state responsible for the operation and the mistakes that occurred, are supposed to carry out extensive legal procedures. Those responsible for the incident should be investigated and given a chance to defend themselves before legal action is taken against them.
“The incident took place on Aug. 9, 2018, and today we are at Sept. 1, which means that the investigations lasted only three weeks. All members of the team worked 24 hours a day, so we were able to produce this report for the world public opinion,” Al-Mansour said.
The team follows a clear course of action, and if the investigation of the incident is complete, the results are immediately announced and the final report presented impartially and transparently to the world, he said.
Al-Mansour said that the investigating team is made up of 15 highly qualified experts from coalition countries in the military field, targeting experts — who are pilots — in addition to experts in international humanitarian law from civil universities, as well as experts accredited by international organizations. The team is headed by a person outside the armed forces.
Regarding the evaluation process, Al-Mansour said that the team looks at each incident in terms of military operations and then conducts a legal assessment process in accordance with the system of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention on Armed Procedures, noting any violations that may occur during military operations.
He stressed that the team was formed in response to an initiative by coalition countries and enjoys full independence. All members of the team are from the coalition countries, and have no role in the military operations of coalition forces.
Regarding allegations by international media that the team is biased in favor of coalition forces, Al-Mansour said that the team held the coalition forces responsible for almost 16 incidents in Yemen, whether due to personal, technical or accidental errors.
The team, from its first press conference, held coalition forces responsible for some incidents, he said, adding that the Great Hall incident is the best evidence for the impartiality of the team. The incident took place in October, 2016 and caused many deaths and injuries as a result of incorrect intelligence.
In addition, the team looks objectively at incidents, and the evaluation mechanisms are known to all. “There are legal regulations that bind us and oblige the coalition countries, especially as the coalition countries are signatories to the Geneva Conventions and the humanitarian law system,” Al-Mansour said.
He added that the team members follow their conscience and do not look at the figures or statistics in the 85 incidents they have investigated. The goal is to achieve justice without any other considerations. Moreover, “the team is monitored by the international community and we know that we will not announce any information except on the basis of a clear legal framework.”
Regarding the accountability mechanism after reports are issued by the Incident Assessment Team, Al-Mansour said that the team is a fact-finding unit whose work is shown to the world.
“After we issue our reports, the concerned agencies in the coalition forces must take their legal action and announce the results of these legal measures taken. The coalition forces always welcome the results of the investigations conducted by the team, and this is another evidence of the seriousness of the coalition forces in dealing with all incidents that are held responsible for them.”
Al-Mansour denied the accusation that the team does not initiate investigation of incidents unless they are reported by the media, saying that the team began investigating the latest incident on the same day it occurred. It was announced three days later at a news conference that the team monitored the incident and that team members were investigating, he said.
The results were announced after the completion of the investigation and with transparency and impartiality.
On reports from some organizations about incidents in Yemen, Al-Mansour confirmed that “the international organizations are informing us about the reports they get either by telephone, by email or by any other means, and they announce the reports as they get them.
“As a team, we investigate these incidents, and we have sufficient experience in distinguishing between the reports that have already been monitored by the organizations or the reports they received by telephone or email. They refer the allegations to us, and we investigate them and present the facts to the world with transparency.
“There may be some incidents which the coalition forces were not fully responsible for. We investigate whether the coalition forces were present in the area or not. Did they have any operations in the same location where an incident is claimed? Are they air forces, ground forces or artillery? If it is proven that coalition forces were not present in this area, we announce that immediately.”
Al-Mansour said that there is good cooperation with some international organizations that monitor incidents on the ground in Yemen.
“We have meetings with them. They listen to us and we listen to them,” he said. “They provide us with a lot of information about some incidents.”