Claims of illegal coalition airstrikes in Yemen denied

The Joint Incident Assessment Team is currently investigating 70 cases. SPA
Updated 16 July 2018
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Claims of illegal coalition airstrikes in Yemen denied

  • JIAT found that the coalition air forces did not attack the mosque, and that there were no signs of damages on July 14, 2015
  • The Joint Incident Assessment Team found that the coalition forces executed a mission on three legitimate military targets in Aden

RIYADH: Accusations that the coalition conducted illegal airstrikes on five sites were denied at a press conference by the Joint incident Assessment TEAM (JIAT) on Sunday.

JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour said: “The number of assessments that the team is currently undertaking is 70 cases and we have completed five assessments.”

The team refuted the allegations made against the Arab coalition in Yemen, producing evidence and a team of experts, including legal consultants accredited by international organizations and military professionals.

The first case concerned a Human Rights Watch report on June 11, 2016, which claimed that the coalition dropped a bomb in the neighborhood of Hasbah in Sanaa targeting the Chamber of Commerce. It injured a security guard and destroyed the eastern wing of a three-story building.

“The team received intelligence from coalition forces regarding the Houthi militias’ use of the building as military barracks.

“Therefore, the coalition forces at the time bombed the building in Sanaa, which fell from the legal protection prescribed by international conventions, as it was a legitimate target that held Houthi militia. As a legitimate military target, attacking it achieves a military advantage,” said Al-Mansour.

The second case concerned a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross on Aug. 6, 2015, which said that the coalition carried out an airstrike on Bab Aden Water Reservoir on July 8, 2015.

JIAT found that the coalition forces executed a mission on three legitimate military targets in Aden. The closest target to Bab Aden Water Reservoir was approximately 5,500 meters. Al-Mansour said: “JIAT found that the coalition air forces did not target Bab Aden Water Reservoir.”    

The third case concerned the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued on Aug. 4, 2016, which stated that the coalition carried out an attack on Al-Hosaini Mosque on July 14, 2015, in Aden.

“According to locals, the mosque was used for military purposes by the Houthi militia.”

However, JIAT found that the coalition air forces did not attack the mosque, and that there were no signs of damages on July 14, 2015. The target was a building where Houthi militants gathered in Aden, 4km away from the claimed location.

The fourth case concerned a claim that there were three airstrikes on Al-Qat market, killing 25 people and injuring 16 others.

Al-Mansour said: “JIAT found that on Sept. 19, 2015, the coalition executed two air missions on two legitimate military targets, which achieved a military advantage, in Sadah Governorate, the closest location was a cave used by Houthi Militia as weapons storage, located 100km away from Al-Qat market.

“The JIAT found that the coalition air forces did not attack the market, and confirmed the procedures of the coalition in attacking the legitimate military target, which was 100km away from Al-Qat market.”

The fifth case concerned news broadcast in the Yemeni media that the coalition forces executed an airstrike on a health center for cholera patients at 4:30 p.m. on June 3, 2017, which was crowded with cholera patients and their companions in Qahza district, Sadah city. The airstrike caused dozens of injuries, destroyed the building and the center’s medical facilities, putting it out of service.

“JIAT found that on June 3, 2017, the coalition air forces executed three air missions on military targets used by Houthi militia as missile storages in Sadah, that represented a legitimate military target, located 3km away from the claimed location, and were direct hits,” Al-Mansour said.  

Pictures were shown at the press conference to refute claims that the collation was unlawfully bombing and not adhering to the international humanitarian law.

Al-Mansour concluded by saying: “Based on the above, the team has concluded that the three military actions were correct and consistent with international humanitarian law.”


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”