62 Human Rights Organizations Urge the UN to Investigate Saudi Arabia’s Abuses in Yemen

Last week, 62 human rights organizations from around the world called on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Saudi Arabia’s abuses in Yemen.

“The victims of abuses in Yemen cannot afford to wait longer for credible investigations into ongoing grave violations and abuses to be undertaken”, the letter said. “We, therefore, call on the Human Rights Council to establish, during its 36th session, an independent international inquiry to investigate alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. The inquiry should be given the mandate to establish the facts and circumstances and to collect and preserve evidence of, and clarify responsibility for, alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, with a view to ending impunity and providing accountability.”

The call on the UN to investigate Saudi Arabia’s abuses comes weeks before the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterrez, has to make the decision whether or not to add the Saudi Kingdom to the UN’s Child Rights Blacklist. Last year, Ban Ki-moon removed Saudi Arabia from the aforementioned UN blacklist at the last minute, after Saudi Arabia threatened him with halting its communications and de-funding the UN.

Save the Children has been running a campaign demanding the UN stand up to the autocratic Middle East regime and shame it for its alleged war crimes in Yemen.

“Last week we handed in a petition to the secretary-generals office with 37,000 signatures … he needs to make a strong decision. He needs to make sure that the Saudi led coalition are listed,” Mr Kaye explained.

“He should do what Ban Ki-moon failed to do last year”.

Since March 2015, at least 10,000 civilians, including children, have been killed in Yemen, though the U.N. Human Rights Office believes that the overall number is much higher. During this time, the Saudi-led coalition has carried out indiscriminate air-strikes against civilians in cities such as the capital Sana’a, Hajjah, Hodeidah and Sa’da governorates, killing and injuring thousands of civilians. The coalition has unlawfully attacked homes, markets, funerals, hospitals, schools, and mosques.

“None of the forces in Yemen’s conflict seem to fear being held to account for violating the laws of war,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “UN members need to press the parties to end the slaughter and the suffering of civilians.”

Human Rights Watch has documented 58 unlawful Saudi-led coalition air strikes, some may amount to war crimes. The coalition has also used internationally banned cluster munitions. Neither the US nor the UK has suspended arms sales to the Saudi Kingdom despite evidence of their usage to commit war crimes.

Numerous Human right organizations working in Yemen have regularly accused Saudi Arabia of blocking critical relief aid from reaching civilians, including children, deepening Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. The coalition has also imposed a permanent air and naval blockade across the country, limiting the importation of food, drinking water, and medicines, contributing to the near collapse of its health system.

Around 15 million Yemenis do not have access to drinking water and basic healthcare. The country also remains on the brink of famine, with some 385,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF. It said the cholera epidemic has been declining since June by one-third because of help from “unsung local heroes” although 550,000 suspected diarrhea and cholera and more than 2,000 associated deaths recorded since April, UNICEF said.

“What was a steady drumbeat of support for an international inquiry into Yemen abuses has become a crescendo,” John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, said in a release. “Human Rights Council member countries should live up to their own mandate, heed these calls, and put in place a body to begin chipping away at the impunity that has been a central facet of Yemen’s war.”

Ahead of the increasing pressure of human rights organizations and the public opinion to add Saudi Arabia to UN’s blacklist and investigate its abuses in Yemen, Riyad is stressing that the Kingdom has helped the Yemeni people by providing basic aid valued in more than $8 billion.

Over the next few weeks, all doubts over the UN’s credibility will be removed. It will have to decide whether it is a biased partisan organization or a neutral one which is efficient in solving conflicts. Carrying out an independent investigation into Saudi Arabia’s possible war crimes in Yemen would demonstrate that the UN is still sometimes a useful organization capable of holding war criminals accountable. Lastly, adding Saudi Arabia to the aforementioned blacklist would only be a small emotional victory but none the less important due to the fact that the UN cannot allow itself to give way to the Saudi’s constant blackmail against the organization.

Advertisements

Yemen: The Forgotten Conflict

Since Yemen’s civil war began in 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has regularly conducted lethal air strikes throughout the country, killing thousands of innocent Yemenis. Further, Saudi Arabia has implemented a blockade of basic supplies against Yemen, including drinkable water, resulting in rampant cholera, leading to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition was initially created seeking to support the deposed President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, after the Houthi rebels had taken key positions all across the country, including the capital Sana’a and his Presidential palace, forcing him to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Since then, Saudi Arabia has justified its lethal attacks on civilians by accusing the Houthis, without any evidence, of being endorsed by its arch-enemies, Iran and Hezbollah.

According to the UN, the Saudi-led coalition regularly kills innocent people, including children. For example, a Saudi air strike killed 140 people and injured some 600 mourners at a funeral in Sana’a last October.

The United Nations’ World Health Organization has reported that the outbreak of cholera in Yemen caused by the Saudi blockade of drinking water has already infected more than 300,000 Yemenis; killed 1,500 people, 55% of them children.

The Red Cross has predicted that one out 45 people in Yemen will contract cholera. More than 600,000 people are expected to contract the disease before the end of the year. Some worrying reports show that a child dies in Yemen every 10 minutes from preventable causes like diarrhea, respiratory infections and malnutrition.

According to the UN, since March 2015, 3.2 million Yemenis have been displaced; 13,000 civilians have been casualties; 2 million children cannot attend schools;  and nearly 15 million people have no access to basic medical care. Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are starving, including 400,000 childrenand some 2.2 million are in need of urgent care.


“In the last two years, more children have died from preventable diseases than those killed in the violence. This is why vaccination campaigns are so crucial to save the lives of Yemen’s children and to secure their future,” said Dr. Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.

Children are dying because the conflict is preventing them from getting the health care and nutrition they urgently need. Their immune systems are weak from months of hunger,” said Dr. Relaño.”

Saudi Arabia has also imposed a strict journalist embargo on Yemen, seeking to hide its acts of barbarism. It only grants sporadic access to the country to a few journalists from the mainstream Western media. On many occasions, they are indirectly endorsed by the Saudi-led coalition.

Despite the embargo, some independent journalists have risked their lives to enter the country covertly. They regularly show the Western world what the mainstream media refuses, the Saudi atrocities in Yemen.

The mainstream Western media regularly ignores the Yemeni conflict by ensuring that it is not attractive enough for the Western audience, which supposedly prefers those in Iraq and Syria because there are more parties involved.

Nothing is expected to change soon; the Saudi-led coalition will still commit atrocities across Yemen. The Houthis and the official Yemeni government will repress and kill thousands of innocent people, worsening the living conditions of innocent Yemenis. In addition, Al-Qaeda and ISIS are expected to increase their influence by taking key positions across Yemen, leading to a possible further American military intervention in the country.

Latest Israeli Provocation in Jerusalem

On Friday, three Palestinians and three Israelis died after the Netanyahu Administration infringed the status quo of the Temple Mount by installing metal detectors and banning Palestinian men under the age of fifty from entering the holy site.

Thousands of Palestinians were gathered in the area when Israeli security forces began to use force against the demonstrators, who responded by throwing stones at police.

In an ‘attempt to control the situation,’ numerous Israeli policemen used tear gas, water cannons, and fired real bullets randomly against the demonstrators, causing the death of three of them, and injuring hundreds more.

The demonstrations spread rapidly to Gaza and the West Bank, where a young Palestinian stabbed three Israelis to death in revenge for Netanyahu’s decision to violate a Muslim holy place.

Abbas announced, “the suspension of contacts with Israel on all levels and the suspension of coordination until all the measures currently being taken at al-Aqsa mosque are stopped.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued statements condemning both incidents. He called “on all to refrain from any actions or words that could further escalate an already volatile situation.”

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said, reporters, that “ultimately, what is important is for all of the people at the holy sites, including all the worshipers at the holy sites, to feel that their religious freedoms are being respected.”

On Saturday, Netanyahu said that the metal detectors will remain at the entrance of the Temple Mount, despite the fact that numerous advisors had recommended their removal. They also believe that Netanyahu’s unilateral action will worsen the Palestine-Israeli conflict, leading to unpredictable consequences.

Despite the different versions of the facts, many still believe that the second intifada began in September 2000 when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, seen by Palestinians as desecration and which has resulted in the death of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

The Temple Mount is one of the holiest places in Islam and in Judaism. According to Judaism, this is the place where God’s divine presence is manifested more strongly than at any other holy site. For Muslims, the site is one of the first places where God was worshiped. They believe it was from here that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the “Divine Presence” on the back of a winged horse.

Over the last few years, the Palestinians have accused PM Netanyahu of planning to build a Third Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which is currently illegal under Israeli law. However, Netanyahu’s coalition with the far right-wing leader Avigdor Lieberman, who supports the construction of the new Jewish temple in the compound has many Palestinians concerned that Netanyahu will soon change the law in order to allow it.

Several international human rights organizations have said that the current situation in Jerusalem has deteriorated to the point that if it does not soon improve a new uprising may occur.

Some have suggested that Netanyahu and Lieberman are intentionally instigating the current increase in violence in Jerusalem with the intention of using it as a pretext to occupy the Temple Mount compound and expand what many consider to be their ethnic cleansing operations in Palestine.

The international community, however, has yet to condemn PM Netanyahu’s actions, which are currently illegal under Israeli law.

Over the next several weeks, several countries will likely be involved in the conflict. Until then, more incidents, which could occur in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as in Jerusalem, are expected.

 

Donald Trump: The War on Terror

From the outset of his presidency, Donald Trump has appeared to be willing to follow in the footsteps of previous presidencies in the “war on terror.” His cabinet has started to hammer out an international plan which, once approved will give green light to the U.S. military forces deployed in the Middle East to direct air strikes on civilian areas in the name of killing terrorists.

Despite his many promises and oaths, Obama embraced Bush’s military strategy to fight terrorism, and endow the JSOC (Joint Special Operations Commands) with the capability of operating undercover in countries such as Pakistan and Iraq with absolute immunity. The JSOC often targeted innocent civilians (including children) causing a real massacre in the region.

Emulating the legacy of previous administrations, and during his first week in the white house, Trump directed a fatal raid in Yemen, which jeopardized the lives of several members of the American special forces, and caused the death of Chief Petty Officer William and 30 civilians, including the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born “radicalized” leader who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.

During his first intervention at the Congress, Trump vehemently used the death of Officer William to make propaganda and reaffirm that the fatal raid in Yemen was necessary to protect the country against terrorists.

Far from stopping his acts of barbarism, Trump recently announced the deployment of 1000 additional soldiers to Syria. In addition, Trump has ordered the U.S. military commanders in Syria to escalate their operations in civilian areas to target and kill terrorists.

The tragedy came swiftly, on March 17, when the US-led coalition directed an air strike in a residential area in West Mosul (controlled by ISIL.), which slaughtered as many as 200 civilians. That was preceded by the killing of dozens of civilians in a school in Raqqa province where refugees were being sheltered, which itself was preceded by the US-led destruction of a mosque near Aleppo that also killed dozens.

Because of these atrocities, a large pool of U.S. commanders announced an investigation to establish accountability for the above-mentioned carnage against innocent civilians in Mosul.

“We have an investigation going on, but our initial assessment… shows we did strike in that area; in fact there were multiple strikes in that area, so is it possible that we did that? Yes, I think it is possible,” Lt. Stephen Townsend told reporters Tuesday.

“Because we struck in that area, I think there’s a fair chance that we did it.”

Unfortunately, several U.S. soldiers and commanders justified the lethal air strike, which caused so many deaths, alleging that since ISIL uses civilians to shield then the air strikes are justified because it is more important to kill terrorists.

Later on, numerous civilians fearful of reprisal expressed their concerns, and asked the authorities if there was any justification for bombing innocent civilians who are denigrated, mistreated, tortured, and raped on a regular basis by the most inhumane terrorist group on earth.

It is worth recalling that the international law prohibits the targeting and bombing of civilians. The deliberate assassination of civilians constitutes a war crime, and essentially if someone commits it, he or she is liable to face prosecution at the International Court. However, the world’s most powerful countries do not bear any legal responsibility for their crimes since they control the very organizations which investigate war crimes.

Another concerning fact is Trump’s struggle to re-establish the network of U.S. secret military prisons to torture terrorists and civilians worldwide. Several experts argue that torture programs are ineffective in fighting terrorism. Most of the prisoners who are tortured on a regular basis are likely to incriminate themselves to stop the physical and mental suffering.

Under Bush’s presidency, the U.S. unjustly targeted and jailed thousands of innocents civilians for years. Once out of the White House, Bush acknowledged some of his mistakes, although it does not exempt him from the war crimes that he committed during his presidency.

By unjustly killing thousands of innocent civilians, Trump will never annihilate terrorism. On the contrary, it will be used for terrorists as a propaganda tool to convince and persuade citizens that the U.S. is the real enemy of the Middle East.

The defeat of Islamic terrorism will only come when the international community shows citizens of the Middle East that they are there to help them. However, it is unlikely to happen since Trump could have several conflicts of interest in the Middle East.

During the last presidential campaign, Trump announced that if he became President, he would then try to take control of petroleum production in the Middle East, and this fact will undermine his efforts to build trust with the citizens.

While I am writing this piece, Trump is probably planning his next move in the Middle East. Or perhaps a deadly strike is being directed against defenseless civilians causing carnage in Syria or Iraq. What is certain is that the international media will be waiting for the next fatal event, and the international community, as usual, will lean on global superpowers and do nothing to stop the massacre in the Middle East.

 

 

 

 

Netanyahu: The Criminal Who Is Still Free

During the last decade, Netanyahu has been responsible for numerous violations of human rights, war crimes, sexual abuses of children and the death of thousands of innocent Palestinians. For years, the international community led, by the U.S. has ignored Netanyahu’s crimes. However, his recidivism of criminal acts against Palestinians on a regular basis has led several countries and international organisations to condemn Israeli’s war crimes and violation of human rights. The increasing indignation among world MP’s with Netanyahu’s government may soon trigger a prosecution against him at the International Court. Here are some of his atrocities:

-WAR CRIMES

In 2014, Prime Minister Netanyahu launched the Operation Protective Edge based on a 50 days war in Gaza. During the operation, Israel indiscriminately killed over 1500 innocent people, including children. More than 20,000 homes were reduced to rubble or rendered uninhabitable. However, the most shocking event was the assassination of four children of the same family who were playing football on the beach. The Israeli government alleged that they thought they were terrorists.

It’s a shame they didn’t identify them as just kids with all the advanced technology they had been using,” “I don’t know what justification they will use for what they did, but our boys are now gone,” the uncle said.

During 50 days of attacks, Israeli forces wreaked massive death and destruction on the Gaza Strip, killing close to 2100 civilians, more than 500 of whom were children,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Director.

NUMBERS:

Palestinians killed: 2,139
Palestinian children killed: 525
Israeli soldiers killed: 64
Israeli civilians killed: 6
Israeli children killed: 1
Palestinians wounded: 11,000
Palestinian children wounded: 3,000
Gaza residents displaced: Up to 500,000
Homes destroyed in Gaza: 20,000


-Israel’s Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law.

For years, Israel has been occupying Palestinian territories pursuing its expansion and Palestinian ethnic cleansing. Since Trump became the U.S. president, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has accelerated the expansion of the existing Israeli settlements by authorising the construction of 5.500 new houses in the West Bank. For that to happen, often the Israeli military forces evict Palestinian families from their houses.

In 2016, the UN adopted a resolution reiterating its demand that Israel immediately ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. The resolution was approved with 24 votes in favour and the U.S abstention.

-The Siege of Gaza

Since 2007, around 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip have been living under a land, sea and air closure blockade imposed by Israel. The impossibility of obtaining external medicines, food, drinkable water and other goods has triggered a humanitarian crisis without precedent. Thousands of Palestinians with serious illnesses are condemned to die due to the impossibility of going abroad to receive their pertinent treatments. As some officials recognised, “the purpose of implementing this blockade is to put Palestinians on a diet”

-Sexual violence against, and torture of, children:

During 2016, the number of cases of Israeli torture of children significantly increased. Often permanent physical disabilities were caused, including amputations. There were over 1300 children arrested and there are still 300 of them in Israeli jails. Around 40% of them were or will be sexually abused by police officers or military men. This degrading Israeli treatment of children violates international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Israeli security forces have used unnecessary force to arrest or detain Palestinian children as young as 11. Security forces have choked children, thrown stun grenades at them, beaten them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of parents or lawyers, and failed to let their parents know their whereabouts.”

“Israeli forces’ mistreatment of Palestinian children is at odds with its claim to respect children’s rights. As Israel’s largest military ally, the US, should press hard for an end to these abusive practices and for reforms,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director.

-The defence for Children International concluded:

Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that annually systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts that lack fundamental rights to a fair trial.”


-Recruitment of Palestinian children as human shields by Israeli armed forces.

Since 2004, DCIP has documented numerous cases where Israeli forces attempted to recruit Palestinian Children as informants. They are recruited to monitor the activities of people living in their community and pass this information onto Israeli Forces.

The International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits parties to a conflict from directing “the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objects from attacks or to shield military operations.”

During Operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014, DCIP reported one incident where Israeli soldiers forced a 16 year-old-Palestinian to search for tunnels for five days. During that time, he was physically assaulted and deprived of food and sleep.

All these crimes and violations of international law represent a small sample of Netanyahu’s atrocities. Unless the international community proceeds to prosecute him at the International Court, Netanyahu will continue threatening thousands of families, women and children on a regular basis.

The international community will not be able to avoid taking action if Israel continues its persecution against Palestinians. Otherwise, it could create a bad precedent, which could be applied for populist emergent leaders to legitimize their illegitimate actions. For that reason, the international community will sooner or later take action to prosecute Netanyahu. But the issue is when? Palestinians do not have much more time to wait for. They struggle between life and death on a daily basis. They do not know if the next day Netanyahu will order an attack and they will die. People from the world are entitled to take action and push their MP’s to halt these sorts of atrocities as soon as possible.

Every second, day, week, month counts… Palestinian lives depend on you and the international community actions. People’s lives depend upon it.

By Josep