The Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s investigative mechanism, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), published a series of legal conclusions in August, October and December 2016 surrounding specific air strike incidents where concerns have been raised that international humanitarian law (IHL) may have been breached.
Amnesty International has reviewed all publically available legal and factual conclusions and in response, has written today to Lieutenant General Mansour Ahmed Al-Mansour, legal advisor to the JIAT, to express the organization’s concern the JIAT’s investigations appear to be falling short of international standards including those of transparency, independence, impartiality and effectiveness. Amnesty International has also sought further information regarding the JIAT’s methodology and mandate.
Amnesty International has also reviewed and evaluated responses made by General Ahmed al-Asiri regarding the organization’s findings on the coalition’s use of UK-manufactured cluster munition.
Amnesty International believes that the JIAT may fall short of international standards in a number of key areas including, but not limited, to:
Mandate: It remains unclear what the JIAT’s mandate is, what it will do with its findings, whether it will identify possible perpetrators, how it will ensure prosecution of those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law, or whether it is mandated to identify systematic patterns of violations.
Authority: It is unclear what powers the JIAT has to subpoena witnesses, obtain relevant documents and other evidence, ensure co-operation from government officials and members of armed forces of coalition members; and whether it has the authority to require coalition members to suspend from duty officials involved in the matters it is looking into; whether its recommendations are binding vis-à-vis coalition members and if there is a committee to oversee the implementation of these recommendations. If these powers are indeed absent, it would be a serious shortcoming undermining the prospect that the JIAT could help ensure truth, justice andreparation for victims and their families.
Transparency: Information regarding the JIAT is not readily available publicly and its methodology remains unclear. Amnesty International is concerned that the following information is not public: the qualifications of its members, detailed information on its terms of reference and a detailed timeline of its work to date (published and unpublished) or a work plan. Amnesty International has not been able to find a detailed explanation of the standards that the JIAT has followed in monitoring, reporting and verifying alleged violations.
Impartiality: The JIAT does not outline the criteria set out for the selection of theincidents to date. Amnesty International fears that the JIAT’s legal and factual conclusions thus far indicate a greater willingness to absolve the coalition members of responsibility. The JIAT does not state what its sources are, how it cross checks factual information and whether it interviewed victims, witnesses and medical staff.
To Amnesty International’s knowledge, the JIAT has not investigated a single cluster munition attack to this day.