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.

New US Travel Ban

On Thursday night, the US partly restored the so-called Muslim travel ban against citizens from Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan, which imposes a 90-day ban on citizens from these countries and 120 days for refugees.

Legally permanent residents, current visa holders, visa applicants who were in the US as of June 26, dual nationals, anyone that has been granted asylum, refugees who have already been admitted to the US and foreign nationals with “close” family, educational or business ties to the US will be exempt from the ban. However, refugees currently awaiting approval for admission to the country will be banned.

The new executive order considers “close” family to be a spouse, child, son or daughter of age, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and siblings. However, it excludes fiancées, grandparents and grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, which had until now been considered “close” family.

The Supreme Court garnered the green light to the Trump administration to reinstate part of the travel ban on Monday and said that it would make a final ruling on the executive order in October.

The first Muslim travel ban had been halted in the lower court for months after it caused massive protests and chaos at all international airports across the entire country, which resulted in the illegal retention of thousands of US legal residents who were born in any of the aforementioned banned countries.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell University said the wording of the decision left the upholders of this law plenty of room for interpretation in terms of enforcement.

How individuals will prove such a [bona fide] relationship, and whether the burden of proof will be on the government or the individuals seeking entry, remains to be seen,” Yale-Loehr said. I predict chaos at the border and new lawsuits, as foreign nationals and refugees argue that they are entitled to enter the United States.”

The prediction of more discord at airports was mirrored by Amnesty International USA executive director Margaret Huang.

Rather than keeping anyone safe,” Huang said, “this ban demonizes millions of innocent people and creates anxiety and instability for people who want to visit a relative, work, study, return to the country they call home, or just travel without fear.”

Several experts have suggested that the fact that those people who have been working with the US in its secret operations in the fight against ISIL will also be banned is very worrisome. And it also endangers their lives.

Furthermore, a travel ban which will not allow grandparents to meet their grandchildren in the US will be catastrophic for many families. However, the worst part of it will be for those refugees who are trying to flee from certain death in their countries to the US. They will now have to face threats, torture, abuse, and death.

Most of the population of the US opposes to what they think it is an unfair Muslim travel ban, which will cause suffering to thousands of families, and which could backfire in the form of terrorism.

Although it is still too soon to know the real impact of the new travel ban on people’s lives, numerous human rights organizations think that this one will be more chaotic than the previous one.

Awaiting the final decision of the Supreme Court in October, human rights organizations and NGO’s will keep fighting against every Muslim travel ban in order to guarantee people’s human rights.

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.