Saturday, January 30, 2016

War Crimes? What War Crimes?

A UN panel of experts eventually acknowledged this January the stench of Saudi Arabia’s war crimes, calling on the UN Security Council to “investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen by all parties and to identify the perpetrators of such violations.” The report reads: “The panel documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”

Evidence from a UN report that suggests the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen has targeted innocent civilians may have been falsified by Houthi rebels Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood suggested in the House of Commons. Addressing MPs in the House of Commons, Ellwood said he took the UN report’s allegations seriously. However, the Tory minister noted that its authors had not personally made their way to Yemen. He argued that the evidence of potential attacks on civilians was predominantly based on “hearsay” and satellite pictures.

“We are aware that the Houthis, who are very media-savvy in such a situation, are using their own artillery pieces deliberately, targeting individual areas where the people are not loyal to them, to give the impression that there have been air attacks,” he said. Ellwood has vowed to sit down with Saudi officials to ensure the UN report’s findings are carefully analyzed.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said the government must revoke all existing licenses for arms to Saudi Arabia. Elwood’s position seems to be that we should just take Saudi Arabia’s word for it – this is despite the fact it is one of the most violent and repressive regimes in the world.” He continued “For decades now the UK has shared an almost entirely uncritical relationship with the Saudi regime. One group that has benefited is the arms companies, who have made millions from the bombardment. The UK may not be bombing Yemen directly, but it has been complicit in the destruction. By arming and supporting the Saudi regime it is aiding and fueling the destruction that is taking place.”

Britain £1 billion worth of missiles, rockets sold over and bombs to Saudi Arabia last summer despite evidence of war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia totaled £2.95 billion (US$4.23 billion) for the first nine months of 2015, and roughly £7 billion since Prime Minister David Cameron took office in 2010. Saudi Arabia revealed earlier this month that British and American forces are stationed in the control center from which military operations against Yemen are being directed. However, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has refused to disclose how many British personnel are involved.

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