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.

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G20 Summit 2017 Hamburg

As they do every year, the world’s 19 largest economies, plus the EU and various financial institutions, met at the annual G-20 Summit, this year held in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7th and 8th.

This year, all eyes were on Trump, who was seeking to normalize his relations with the EU and Putin. Prior to the meeting, Trump had accused Germany of corruption and undermining the US economy. For her part, Merkel had announced that the US was no longer a German ally. His relationship with Putin has also been deteriorating since the attack against the Syrian government back on April 6. 

Due to various discrepancies between leaders, the summit was not successful. As expected, Merkel and Trump did not reach any agreement. The latter suggested that he will soon implement protectionist measures in the US coal industry which will affect the EU economy. The EU rapidly said that it was ready to retaliate against the US within a few days if Trump ever implements protectionist measures. 

The G20 leaders were not able to convince Trump to rejoin the Paris Climate Change agreement.  The latter ignored their claims and abandoned the climate change meeting before it ended in order to meet Putin on July 7th.

Despite their previous disagreements, Trump and Putin agreed on a partial ceasefire in Southern Syria that began on Sunday. They also agreed on the need of deescalating tensions between them in order to normalize relations and reach future agreements. In the end, they both agreed on continuing their regular talks until their next personal meeting takes place in a close future.

I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria,” Mr. Tillerson told reporters on Friday night in Hamburg, Germany, after the more than two-hour meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. “And as a result of that, we had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria that we can continue to work together on to de-escalate the areas and violence once we defeat ISIS, and to work together toward a political process that will secure the future of the Syrian people.”

Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, later said the cease-fire would take effect from midnight to noon local time on Sunday in the areas of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida in Syria along the Jordanian border. “At first, security around this de-escalation zone will be guaranteed by the forces and means of the Russian military police, in coordination with the Americans and Jordanians,” he said.

The G-20 did not reach any agreement on the current refugee crisis. Italy, which is receiving thousands of refugees weekly, demanded a global compromise to solve the problem. However, the rest of the world leaders ignored Italy’s claims and directed their attacks against NGO’s

According to numerous world leaders, NGO’s are promoting immigration instead of helping refugees. For that reason, they discussed tightening the conditions permitting NGO’s to operate in the Mediterranean Sea.

Representatives from several NGO’s said that they are just saving lives and reminded governments that refugees are not immigrants. They are fleeing from war zones in countries such as Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan which were caused by the Western world.

As usual, social organizations organized an alternative to the G-20 Summit on July 5th and 6th, the so-called Global Solidarity Summit. This year, thousands of people from all over the world attended the various activities, assemblies, and conferences seeking alternative ways to improve people’s lives worldwide. Most of the conferences were open and people could freely participate and give their point of view regardless of their social status.

As expected, thousands of demonstrators from all over the world gathered in Hamburg in order to disrupt the G-20 summit. However, they were not able to achieve their ultimate goal due to a heavy police presence. Despite the fact that most of them were peaceful, the German police attacked them without justification, leading to serious riots, arrests, and injuries.

As numerous videos show, moments before the so-called “Welcome to Hell” march on was set to begin on July 6, thousands of German police officers rushed the crowd, hitting everyone, including journalists. In the end, the Hamburg police admitted that the “Welcome to Hell” march was peaceful at the time of the attack and only some in the crowd were masked.

The “Welcome to Hell” march was not the only protest which ended in riots. There were many others before, during, and after the summit in various locations around Hamburg. On a few occasions, protesters were able to close off portions of the city for several hours before the German police evicted them.

In the end, the G20 Hamburg Summit will be remembered for the inability of world’s leaders to agree on solving real people’s problems. People will remember instead the decisions made by the wealthiest nations, which will result in thousands of deaths in poor countries.

 

 

Trump Tries to Impose His Ideas During the G7 Summit and Germany Says EU Cannot Rely on the US Any Longer

Last week, Trump attended the G7 Summit in Tormina (Italy), his first since becoming president. The meeting, which reunited 7 of the most powerful countries in the world, aimed to make crucial agreements on immigration, terrorism, poverty, and trade.

In the present edition, the organizers announced substantial format changes to adapt it to Trump’s attitudes. They wrote documents in simple English, added pictures, and shortened meeting times to keep Trump from getting bored and losing his focus after a few minutes.

Trump’s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, said Mr. Trump “came here to learn. He came here to get smart. His views are evolving…exactly as they should be.”

Prior to that, most of the leaders had already met Trump. And they were conscious of his limited ability to follow arduous talks. However, they expected that the new format would help him understand the content of meetings. Nevertheless, Trump’s bold, presumptuous, smug, and thoughtless demeanor lead the Summit to be an absolute failure.

Unfortunately, all efforts to give Trump a better understanding of the Summit were in vain. According to numerous attendees, Trump was a good listener, but he was also often distracted, leading him to ignore crucial talks on immigration. Most participants also accused him of trying to impose his agenda without even negotiating with them, causing widespread anger.

Due to Trump’s refusal to negotiate realistic policies with other leaders, the latter pressured him on the climate change pact – but he did not promise anything and said that he will make a decision next week. Later on, he announced his decision via Twitter:

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the discussion on climate change had been “very unsatisfactory”, adding “we have a situation of six against one.” In the end, the rest of the leaders isolated Trump and reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord, the world’s first comprehensive deal aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The participants also said that there had been uncertainty over Mr. Trump’s position on sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine. However, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said at the summit on Friday:

“We’re not lowering our sanctions on Russia. If anything we would look to get tougher on Russia.”

Italy had planned a five-page G7 statement on human mobility, stressing migrants’ rights, their positive contribution to host nations and the threat they faced from traffickers. Instead, Trump undermined it and the final statement highlighted the right of nation states to secure their borders, and set migration targets.

Trump was especially impolite and rude with the Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. As footage reveals, he removed his “headphone” translator and ignored him during his speech on immigration. This was the first time that someone behaved like that since George W. Bush, who was also well-known for being easily distracted during international meetings.

Donald Tusk (EU) said that Trump agreed that Brexit was an incident, not a trend. He added that Trump acknowledged that Brexit will make Americans lose thousands of jobs. This statement was welcomed by most of the leaders. However, most of them also claimed that Trump acted hypocritically by endorsing Brexit during his recent campaign.

During the G7 Summit, Trump used a “nasty” narrative against Germany. He suggested that Germany was benefiting from other European countries. Although he was right on this point, his lack of knowledge about the EU left all leaders perplexed, demonstrating Trump’s mental gymnastics.

The Summit went through a shocking period when it discussed trade. Trump argued that the existing commercial situation between the EU and the US was unfair, and also threatened the EU with taking unilateral actions against its economy. He also suggested that he may soon increase taxes for the German automotive industry operating in the US.

Cohn said the US president “raised issues of unfair trading practices around the world” adding: “We have large trade deficits with most EU countries. The president doesn’t like having large trade deficits.”

Despite the various disagreements, the G7 leaders finally agreed on strengthening their collaboration in the fight against terrorism. With the recent Manchester terrorist attack still on their minds, they agreed on increasing control of the Internet to detect the so-called “lone wolf” (terrorists).

We will combat the misuse of the Internet by terrorists. While ranking as one of the most important technological achievements in the last decades, the Internet has also proven to be a powerful tool for terrorist purposes,” said the joint statement signed by the leaders meeting in Sicily. However, White House National Security Adviser HR McMaster said that Mr. Trump would make his decisions based “on what’s best for the American people.”

The G7 summit ended without much progress and displayed the various difficulties that world’s leaders have to face in dealing with Trump. The low level of Trump’s understanding and his unpredictability will make it hard for them to make crucial agreements with him in the future. It is in this context that most of the G7 leaders declared the summit as an absolute failure.

Angela Merkel said that after the last G7 Summit, Germany and the EU could not rely on the US and the UK any longer. She also advocated for making a stronger independent EU.

A few days after the G7 summit, Trump returned to his routine of writing self-congratulatory tweets. This time he said:

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After the G7 Summit, it is clear that Trump’s bellicose narrative against several allies has worsened relations between the US and the international community. Some of them, such as Germany, think that it will be impossible for them to make future agreements with Trump, and are already waiting for the US mid-term elections in 2018. They think that a bad result for Republicans could precipitate an eventual impeachment against Trump which could enable the restoration of the relations between the US and Europe.