Yemen: UN Decries, Condemns, Laments but Does Nothing..

19th March 2016

By Vanessa Beeley

On the 15th March, during the UNHRC 31st session, the Saudi-led coalition mercilessly bombed a civilian market place in Hajjah province, massacring over 100 civilians and injuring countless others. 

Cover photo provided by the Arabic-language Mersad news agency shows a victim lying dead on the ground following Saudi airstrikes against the al-Khamis market in the Mastaba district of the northwestern Yemeni province of Hajjah on March 15, 2016.

Since the inception of this war of aggression against Yemen, the Saudi led coalition has perhaps surpassed even Israel in its blatant violations of all laws of war and human rights.

The US supplied cluster munitions, both air and ground launched, have been used liberally against civilian targets, particularly in the northern provinces of Saada and Hajjah.  The US is not a signatory of the Cluster Munitions Convention, neither is Saudi Arabia, but the US export regulations clearly state, they should not be used against civilian targets.  This regulation is being flagrantly flouted with little more than a shrug from the US as the weapons of mass destruction contracts with Saudi Arabia fulfil all military industrial complex expectations.

The Saudi coalition has deliberately targeted civilian areas, homes and infrastructure, wholesale slaughtering the innocent and defenceless of Yemen already enduring a crippling blockade and without even the most basic medical supplies.

What, you might ask, is the UN response to this barbarism?  Talk, talk and more talk. They decry, they condemn, they go so far as “lamenting” but walking the talk seems physically impossible for these rhetoric lovers.

In fact Zeid Ra’ad al Hussain the Human Rights Commissioner goes so far as to blame pride on both sides for these tragic deaths in Hajjah!

“I urge both sides to swallow their pride and bring this conflict to a halt,” Zeid said. “The people of Yemen have suffered enough. A very poor country is having its limited infrastructure decimated, and people are struggling desperately to survive.”

Why then are the UN not lifting sanctions, demanding an end to the blockade or insisting upon arms embargoes against the Saudi coalition.  They mumble “war crimes”under their breath when they are being committed on a daily basis by the Saudi coalition, documented and evidenced to the hilt yet are strident in their accusations against the Syrian government with minimal evidence or proof to substantiate their multiple claims, the majority of which have been discredited.

What pride is al Hussain talking about? The pride the Yemeni people have in their country, their freedom, their aspirations to democracy and universal representation? The pride the Yemeni people have in removing the Saudi yoke of corruption and exploitation?  The pride the Yemeni people have in resisting all attempts to subjugate, partition and enslave them to neocolonialist occupation?  The pride the Yemeni people have in their sovereignty?  The sovereignty that the UN should be defending?

Yes Mr High Commissioner, the Yemeni people are struggling to survive because the NATO and US supplied and endorsed Saudi coalition is strangling them and ethnically cleansing their nation day by day.  They are struggling because the UN is failing in its duty to protect them.  They are struggling because the UN is not demanding an end to the Saudi blockade.  They are struggling because the UN has failed to provide an independent investigation into the multiple war crimes being committed by the Saudi coalition.

One year on and what exactly has the UN done to prevent this massacre of over 8,000 Yemenis, 2000 children, over 1500 women. Tens of thousands injured, maimed and suffering the after shocks of a multitude of WMD used against them. What has the UN done, other than decry, lament and condemn?

Here is the full report on the speech given by the High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein on 18th March 2016:

“In the wake of another deadly airstrike that killed some 106 civilians in a crowded village market in north-western Yemen, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday condemned the repeated failure of the Coalition forces to take effective actions to prevent the recurrence of such incidents, and to publish transparent, independent investigations into those that have already occurred.

“The carnage caused by two airstrikes on the Al Khamees market, in north-western Yemen on Tuesday was one of the deadliest incidents since the start of the conflict a year ago,” said Zeid, noting that it was the second such incident in the past three weeks. On 27 February, at least 39 civilians, including nine children, were killed, and another 33 injured, by an airstrike on the Khaleq market in a north-eastern district of Sana`a.

UN Human Rights Office staff in Yemen, who visited the site of the attack in northern Hajja Gvernorate on Wednesday and interviewed a number of eyewitnesses, said the airstrikes had completely destroyed 16 shops in the Al Khamees market, which is the primary shopping area for some 15 surrounding villages. The attack had apparently taken place during the afternoon rush hour when the market was particularly crowded.

There were 24 children among the 106 people reported dead so far. UN staff recorded the names of 96 of the victims, although a further 10 bodies were burned beyond recognition. More than 40 other people were reported to have been injured during the attack.

Since the beginning of the conflict a year ago, the UN Human Rights Office has recorded a total of just under 9,000 casualties including 3,218 civilians killed and a further 5,778 injured (from 26 March 2015 to 17 March 2016).

The UN human rights staff could find no evidence of any armed confrontation or significant military objects in the area at the time of the attack, beyond the presence of a check-point some 250 meters away from the market usually manned by a small group of policemen and Houthis.

“Looking at the figures, it would seem that the coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces put together, virtually all as a result of airstrikes,” the High Commissioner said. “They have hit markets, hospitals, clinics, schools, factories, wedding parties – and hundreds of private residences in villages, towns and cities including the capital Sana’a. Despite plenty of international demarches, these awful incidents continue to occur with unacceptable regularity. In addition, despite public promises to investigate such incidents, we have yet to see progress in any such investigations.”

“It would appear to be the case that the distinction between legitimate military targets and civilian ones — which are protected under international law — is at best woefully inadequate,” Zeid said. “And at worst, we are possibly looking at the commission of international crimes by members of the Coalition. There is an obligation to distinguish at all times between military targets and civilians. The Houthis and their allies have also been responsible for indiscriminate ground attacks resulting in civilian casualties, which I also condemn and which could qualify, likewise, as international crimes.”

One year on from the start of the conflict, the UN Human Rights Chief lamented the failure of the two sides to the conflict to agree a peace deal, adding he hoped that an announcement by a Coalition spokesman on Thursday that Saudi Arabia was planning to scale back major combat operations would indeed lead rapidly to a full ceasefire and peace agreement.

“I urge both sides to swallow their pride and bring this conflict to a halt,” Zeid said. “The people of Yemen have suffered enough. A very poor country is having its limited infrastructure decimated, and people are struggling desperately to survive.”



forgotten war




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