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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Is the UN a Useless Organization?

WWII was the real reason that the US, the UK, and the Soviet Union formed the original UN declaration. The document was signed by 26 countries in January 1942 and lead to the creation of the official UN in 1945, as a formal act of opposition to Germany, Italy, and Japan, the Axis Powers.

The United Nations, an international organization, was officially founded at the UN Conference on international organization in San Francisco, California in June 1945, replacing the failing League of Nations as an organization able to maintain international cooperation, peace, and security. However, regular disputes between its members with veto power such as the US and Russia, which have always been butting heads with one another, has led the UN to fail in solving most of the global conflicts, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people, including children worldwide.

SOME OF THE UN’S FAILURES SINCE ITS CREATION:

SYRIA

The UN has failed in solving the Syrian conflict due to the regular confrontation between the US and Russia which defend different solutions for the Syrian war. According to the UN, the war has already caused more than 500.000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of casualties and refugees. Last year, more than 200 civil society organizations from around the world issued a statement demanding a real solution for the Syrian conflict from the UN. However, it has not formally responded yet. Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office, said:

It is becoming clearer every day that the UN Security Council has failed the Syrian people. There have been almost half a million deaths, and each one is a stark rebuke of the Security Council, the supposed guardian of international peace and security, which has allowed a political deadlock to stand in the way of saving lives.”

This is why we, along with 224 civil society organizations, are urgently calling on UN member states to take action and request an Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly to demand an end to all unlawful attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. They must call for immediate and unhindered humanitarian access so that life-saving aid can reach all those in need.”

UN member states can and should use all the diplomatic tools at their disposal to take action towards ending the atrocities in Syria – the inaction we have seen over the past five years is a shameful chapter in the history of the Security Council.”

YEMEN

The civil war in Yemen has already killed more than 12.000, mainly by the Saudi-led coalition, displacing millions and destroying most of the nation’s infrastructure. It has also left some 21 million people dependent on foreign aid to survive. Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are starving, including 400,000 children, and some 2.2 million are in need of urgent care.

The Saudi blockade of drinking water across the country has caused an outbreak of cholera that has already infected more than 300,000 Yemenis and killed 1,500 people, 55% of which were children. More than 600,000 people are expected to contract the disease before the end of the year. 

The UN is led by the US, which is a fierce ally of Saudi Arabia. This has blocked any agreement on solving the Yemeni conflict, stopping Saudi Arabia’s war crimes across the country and solving the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

RAPE AND CHILD SEX ABUSE

UN Peacekeepers were accused of raping and paying young girls for sex in Cambodia in 2005, Since then similar cases have also been found in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and other places. The UN has yet to condemn these criminal acts in order to preserves its “high reputation” worldwide.

SREBRENICA

The war in Bosnia began in 1992 in an effort to separate Serbs from other ethnicities. In 1993, the UN named Srebrenica a safe zone and sent 400 soldiers from the Dutch United Nations Protect Force in order to protect civilians and refugees living in the city. In 1995, however, some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were slaughtered by Serb forces. The UN Dutch commander did not order his troops to defend the innocent people against the Serbs. Instead, he was later pictured with the leader of the massacre, the Serb commander, Ratio Mladic in a celebration.

RWANDA GENOCIDE

In 1994, the UN which was on a mission in Rwanda failed to prevent the Hutus from killing almost a million people of the Tutsi minority. The conflict began in the capital Kigali when the Hutu power government and officials incited civilians to take up arms against the Tutsis. The conflict rapidly spread throughout the country and resulted in the slaughter of a million and caused more than 2 million refugees.

IRAQ OIL FOR FOOD PROGRAM

The UN began the Oil-for-Food program in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil to pay for food and other necessities for its population. However, numerous corrupt UN employees mismanaged the program for their own benefit. Saddam Hussein also earned some $1.7 billion through kickbacks and surcharges.

There is no doubt that the UN has sometimes succeeded, but it has always been useless as a peace-keeper due to the diversity of positions between its members. The UN was founded to maintain international cooperation, peace, and security. However, it has become a slow, ineffective, and corrupt organization unable to bring peace, cooperation, and assist millions of people and refugees suffering from wars worldwide. The UN has failed as the old League of Nations did, so the questions now are: Should the UN be reformed to become an effective organization able to bring peace worldwide? or should the UN disappear instead?

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Trump’s Connections With Dictators

Trump’s connections with a large number of dictatorships has raised several questions about his morality and political convictions. Since he became president, numerous human rights organizations have protested against him for welcoming human rights violators onto US soil. However, Trump has always denied those accusations, claiming that classic tyrants such as Al-Sisi (Egypt) and Erdogan (Turkey) are US allies who lead free countries.

Despite Trump’s efforts to manipulate public opinion, the recent visit of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan caused a political earthquake. During his visit to the Turkish embassy in Washington DC on Monday, Erdogan ordered his bodyguards to attack people who were peacefully protesting against him. As result, a number of protesters were injured and needed medical assistance. A few hours before that regrettable incident, Trump said:

We have had a great relationship and we will make it even better.”

Today, we face a new enemy in the fight against terrorism, and again we seek to face this threat together.”

Amnesty International said the meeting was, “an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the way that President Trump and President Erdogan are contributing to a global climate of toxic and dehumanizing politics.”

President Trump recently praised President Erdogan for winning a referendum in which dissenting opinions were ruthlessly suppressed, yet President Trump has been silent on Turkey’s alarming crackdown on the media,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

“The world will be watching, hoping that both presidents will reaffirm their commitments to protecting human rights.”

Despite Erdogan’s criminal act onto US soil, Trump said,

it was a great honor to welcome the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House today.”

Numerous Republicans and Democrats have come together to condemn Erdogan’s crime. Senator John McCain said,

We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America. This is the United States of America. This isn’t Turkey; this isn’t a third-world country, and this kind of thing cannot go un-responded to diplomatically.”

McCain added: “It should have repercussions, including identifying these people and bringing charges against them.After all, they violated American laws.”

Later in the day Wednesday, McCain and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent a joint letter to Erdogan to express their “grave concern” with the behavior of his security detail.

“The actions of your staff violate the constitutional protections of freedom of the press and freedom of assembly enjoyed by all Americans. Your staff’s blatant violation of these rights on American soil is an affront to those freedoms, and reflects poorly on your government,” the letter said. “We have long supported Turkey as a member of NATO and a key US ally in the region, and we expect conduct more appropriate to our decades-long partnership.”

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., called for the arrest and prosecution of members of Erdogan’s security detail.

If Erdogan’s bodyguards who participated in this attack have entered the country on diplomatic visas, those visas should be revoked right away,” Lofgren said, slamming Erdogan as “authoritarian” and “an oppressor” and said that it was “unwise” for Trump to meet with him.

The United States needs to send a strong message that we will not stand by,” as Erdogan brings “thuggish tactics to our nation’s capital,” Lofgren said

Despite the demands presented by Republicans and Democrats, the government said it will not take further actions against Turkey. The Department of Justice added that it will further investigate the facts and will notify Erdogan of its concerns about the incident.

Days after the incident, the Trump administration announced its intentions to strengthen its ties with Erdogan because according to them, he is an ally and represents a free country.

Two months ago, Turkey held a rigged constitutional referendum which gave Erdogan super powers. The international observers concluded that the referendum did not comply with international standards. Under the new constitution, Erdogan can approve his policies without the previous approval of the parliament.

Before the referendum, Erdogan was already abolishing human rights in Turkey. Since July 15, Erdogan’s regime has sacked 138,147 citizens, detained 102,247, arrested 50,987, shut down 2,099 schools, dormitories, and universities, fired 8271 teachers, dismissed 4,424 judges, shut down 149 media outlets, and arrested 231 journalists. Furthermore, detainees are repressed, oppressed and in numerous cases executed without any trial.

Looking at these numbers, it is clear that Erdogan is a cruel dictator who has Trump’s approval. Erdogan’s has not been the only visit of a dictator to the US.

On April 3, Trump welcomed the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the White House (Obama always refused meeting him as long as he was a human rights violator.) During his meeting, Trump said,

we agree on so many things.” He said Egypt’s leader has “done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”

He added: “We will fight terrorism and other things. We’re going to be friends for a long long period of time. We have a great bond with the people of Egypt.”

In a later press conference, Sean Spicer said,

Trump made clear that this is a new day in the relationship between Egypt and the United States and the president affirmed his strong support of the Egyptian people,” “It was a candid dialogue during which they discussed both areas of cooperation and of concern.”

Numerous human rights organizations protested against Al-Sisi’s visit:

Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch.

Giving more money to the Sisi government is to the detriment of US and Egyptian interests,” Margon said. “Neither side in this relationship seems interested in promoting human rights, but the gross abuses being committed by Egyptian authorities should compel Congress to keep limiting support.”

As Defense Minister, Al-Sisi overthrew the country’s first freely elected president in 2013. He also killed 1150 protesters in the following weeks. Since then, his security forces have arrested tens of thousands of Egyptians, committed abuses, tortures, enforced disappearances, and extra-judicial executions. According to several human rights organizations, Al-Sisi has arrested 60.000 innocent citizens and accused them of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2014, Al-Sisi arrested an American citizen who founded the “Belady Foundation For Street Children.” Last February, Al-Sisi shut down several human rights organizations, including a center for rehabilitating people who have been tortured by the government. Al-Sisi alleged that these organizations were funded by foreign countries. As a result, numerous human rights defenders are now liable to face a 25-year sentence. This decision contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR.)

Despite all these facts, the Trump administration contends that Egypt is a free democratic country that is fighting Islamist terrorism. However, the above-mentioned violations of human rights indicate that Egypt is actually, the harshest dictatorship in the Middle East.

Since 1987, the US has provided 1.3 billion of dollars in annual military aid to Egypt in the form of equipment, training, etc. Obama suspended the program when Al-Sisi became “president” in 2013. However, two years later, he reinstated military aid although now limited to training. When Trump became president, he announced that he would resume military aid to Egypt again.

If that were not enough, Trump visited Saudi Arabia to sign a 100 million dollar arms deal on Friday. On Sunday, he gave a speech on Islam and peace. When asked if Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship, a government spokesperson said,

Saudi Arabia is a democratic country and our most important ally in the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.”

On Saturday, Trump scandalized his supporters when he bowed to the Saudi King while receiving a medal. Until then, Trump had always been one of the most prominent anti-Muslim speakers in US politics. However, it appears from the fact that Trump went there to sign a massive contract that he has changed his mind. By bowing to the Saudi King, Trump has supported one of the worst human rights violators in the world.

In the past, Saudi Arabia has curtailed the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly by detaining and imprisoning critics, human rights defenders and minority rights activists on vaguely worded charges.

Coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia have committed serious violations of international law, including war crimes, in Yemen. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombed thousands of Yemenis, including children. It also caused a permanent shortage of basic supplies, water, and electricity across the country, leading to outbreaks of diseases and starvation.

Security officials continued to torture detainees with impunity, and imposing and administering corporal punishments, particularly floggings. In February, the Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to 800 lashes and eight years imprisonment.

Women remain legally subordinate to men with respect to marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. They cannot access higher education, take paid employment or travel abroad without the approval of their male guardian. Women also remain banned from driving.

Courts have continued to impose death sentences including for non-violent crimes. Many defendants are sentenced to death after unfair trials by courts that convict them without adequately investigating allegations that their “confessions” were coerced, including with torture. On January 2 authorities reportedly carried out 47 executions, 43 by beheading and four by shooting, in 12 locations around the country.

With this record, it appears that not even Trump could deny that Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. He is not the first president to have good relations with the Saudi Kingdom: Obama and Clinton also had strong ties with the dictatorship, but never at the current high level.

Trump’s motivations to strengthen his relationships with dictators are unclear. Moreover, he criticized this style of politics until he became president. Perhaps Trump has realized that dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia are more powerful than the US.

What is clear is that by strengthening his ties to dictators, Trumps is indirectly endorsing their violations of human rights. For that reason, there is increasing concern that Trump may try to install a new dictatorship in the US. It is important to remember that the US system was created to prevent these scenarios. But if most republicans support his mental gymnastics, he may soon turn the US system into a “Banana republic.”

So far, Trump has appointed a republican as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. This greatly strengthens his position with respect to the judiciary, increasing the likelihood of ultimate success for any laws passed by his Republican allies in Congress. However, US citizens will be crucial in stopping Trump’s plans. Bad results for Republicans in the mid-term Congress and Senate elections in 2018 would open the door for an internal rebellion, leading to Trump’s impeachment. Given what we have seen so far, the words “IMPEACHMENT” and “DICTATORSHIP” will be the most popular words of the coming year.