Archive for the ‘Saudi Arabia’ Category


A further 15 men face imminent execution in Saudi Arabia

Only a few days ago, we highlighted the case of fourteen men who face imminent execution.  Today we publish a further urgent action as Saudi is about to execute another 15 individuals.  The families of the accused have just discovered that the higher court has upheld the lower court’s ruling without the prisoners themselves or their lawyers knowing about it.

They were accused of high treason together with other unrecognisable offences including ‘supporting protests’ and ‘spreading the Shi’a faith.’  They were held incommunicado for nearly three months and denied access to lawyers.  Their families were threatened with arrest if they did not sign confessions.

The system in Saudi is contrary to all international norms and shows no sign of improvement.  Yet despite this we continue to supply the country with arms on a huge scale.

The Foreign and Colonial Office has just published its 2o16 report on human rights and on Saudi it says the following (extract)

… We also remain deeply concerned about the application of the death penalty.  Amnesty International reported that 153 people had been executed in 2016, compared to 158 people in 2015.  This included the simultaneous execution of 47 people on 2 January 2016.  On 5 January, the then FCO Minister for the Middle East and Africa, Tobias Ellwood, made a statement to Parliament reiterating our clear position on the death penalty.  As the principle of the death penalty is enshrined in Saudi Arabia’s Sharia law, total abolition in the near future is unlikely.  We continued to ensure that the Saudi authorities are aware of our strong opposition to the death penalty at the most senior levels.

… In 2017, we will continue to work to limit the application of the death penalty; and to ensure that, if it is applied, it is carried out in line with international minimum standards.  We will continue to monitor closely cases which relate to freedom of expression and of religion or belief.  We will also look for opportunities to promote greater participation by civil society and by women in Saudi public life.  (p 49)

Fine words but somewhat undermined by continuing high level contact, visits by members of the Royal Family and government ministers keen to promote the continued sale of weapons.

If you do get time to write that would be appreciated.  Alternatively, if you go to our Twitter page on this and click ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ that would help.

Urgent Action (pdf)


If you live in the Salisbury area and would like to join then the simplest thing is to come to one of our events and make yourself known.  These can be found here, on our Twitter or Facebook pages – salisburyai.

 

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Fourteen men are a risk of execution in Saudi Arabia

The families of the men discovered that these men are at risk of execution a few days ago as a result of the secretive nature of the Saudi justice system.  Due to the lack of information surrounding the judicial process in Saudi Arabia, it is only when the families of some of the men finally managed to get through to the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), on 23 July by phone, that they learned the sentences of their relatives had been upheld.  This means that the 14 men could be executed as soon as the King ratifies the sentences.  The ratification process is secretive and could happen at any time.  On 15 July, the 14 men were transferred to the capital Riyadh without prior notice.

As is quite common in that country, torture may have been used to extract confessions.

Full details are below and we hope readers will find time to write or email to the Saudi authorities.

In previous posts we have drawn attention to the British government’s role in supporting this regime despite its horrific human rights record and its activities in bombing and blockading the Yemen.

Urgent Action: Saudi

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The British high Court today handed down a deeply disappointing and some might argue astonishing decision that arms sales to the Saudi Arabians represents no risk to human rights law.  The case was brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade CAAT and concerned the use of weapons sold to the Saudis and being used by them in the ‘forgotten war’ in Yemen.

We have in this blog been drawing attention to the terrible damage being done by the Saudis in Yemen who have used our weapons to bomb civilian targets in that country.  These are not isolated incidents or accidents, but part of what seems to be a plan which has seen the bombing of hospitals, refugee camps, schools, wedding ceremonies and market places – indeed anywhere where civilians are likely to congregate.  10,000 have now died there and the country is in crisis.  CNN has produced a short film (distressing please note) showing some of the dreadful effects of the war being waged.

Despite the considerable evidence that international human rights are being violated, that civilian targets are being targeted and banned UK produced BL-755 cluster munitions are being used, astonishingly the High Court ruled that:

The Secretary of State was ‘rationally entitled to conclude’ the coalition was not targeting civilians.

It further concluded:

Saudi Arabia was respecting humanitarian law and is in constructive dialogue with the UK about its processes and incidents of concern.  There was no real risk that there might be serious violations of International Humanitarian Law.

A CAAT said it was a ‘very disappointing verdict’ and that they were going to appeal.

If the ruling is not overturned then it will be regarded by Whitehall and Westminster as giving a green light to continue arming and supplying brutal dictators and human rights abusers.

An Amnesty International spokesman said:

The shameless arms supplies to Saudi Arabia … may amount to lucrative trade deals but the UK risks aiding abetting these terrible crimes.  This is a deeply disappointing outcome which gives a green light to the UK authorities – and potentially other arms suppliers – to continue authorising arms transfers to the Kingdom despite the clear risk they will be used to commit violations.  James Lynch, head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International (source: Washington Post)

It is difficult to ascribe a rational reason to the High Court’s decision.  True they had access to secret information which the rest of us cannot know.  But the evidence on the ground is compelling and has come from several different sources and experts.  And there is the human rights record of the Saudis themselves in their own country.  A record of executions, torture and amputations which puts them in a league of their own.

Behind it all is that they are major purchases of weapons and our biggest market for such materiel by far.  They are the tail that wags the dog.

Few can be happy that for the sake of jobs, weapons supplied by us are being used to cause such mayhem, death and misery in an already poor country.  We must sincerely hope that the Court of Appeal overturns this disgraceful decision.


Sources: the Independent; Washington Post; New York Times; the Guardian; CNN

 

 

 

 


Good news on cluster bombs
Just before the Christmas holidays, the Government finally admitted that Saudi Arabia had indeed dropped UK cluster bombs in its bombing campaign in Yemen and in doing so, confirmed that our research was entirely correct.  When we alerted the UK government to this in May 2016, the Government strongly denied it, as did Saudi Arabia. This is a major victory for our research work and campaigning to keep the government under pressure on this issue. 

Amnesty joined with 100s of other organisations around the world to campaign to ban cluster bombs because of the risks they pose to civilians.  Cluster bombs scatter 100s of lethal bomblets that can continue to kill and cause horrific injuries long after the conflict has ended.  The UK rightly banned these horrific weapons and their use in Yemen provides yet more evidence of indiscriminate nature of the Saudi Arabian led coalition’s bombing campaign.

From Amnesty briefingcluster bombs


 The war in Yemen (again)

UPDATE: 21 August

Full page article in the Observer newspaper on the subject of arms sales to Yemen.

In many previous posts we have drawn attention to the war in Yemen which receives far less coverage than events in Syria.  In particular, we have drawn attention to the role of the UK government in supporting the Saudis with weapons, political cover and providing – quite shamefully – British service personnel to advise them on the military activities.  We wrote last year to our local MP John Glen who replied with a bland letter from a Foreign Office minister, Tobias Ellwood which began to unwind in the following weeks.

We have also highlighted the role of British arms suppliers and the many billions of pounds of weaponry which has gone to the Saudis to enable them to continue the bombing campaign in Yemen.  Bombing has been indiscriminate and hospitals; mosques; weddings and schools have been targeted.

The FCO has now admitted that its responses have been less than honest in a statement slipped out on the last day of parliament.  The claim that human rights law was not being breached is now no longer claimed only that they were not being assessed.

Picture: Middle East online

So our involvement in the Yemen conflict has been shameful in the extreme and the fact that Britain is profiting from it as well only makes matters worse.  The government has been lucky in the world has been distracted by Syria and Yemen only appears in the news now and again with little sign of media traction.

A leader article in the Guardian on 18 August, set out again many of the points it and others have been making over the last year or so.  It points out that we have licensed £3.3bn (yes that’s BILLION) of weapon sales to Saudi over the past year alone according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.  The cost to the Yemenis has been immense with 6,500 dead and 2.5 million displaced.  Save the Children point out that one in three of under-fives suffers malnutrition.  The World Bank; UN and EU agencies estimate £14bn of damage to the economy.  And so on and so on.  We and the US are the main culprits in terms of support and arms sales yet there is no sign of an end to the conflict.  The Saudis are apparently pretty hopeless in their bombing activities despite the help they get from our service personnel.

But – there is a glimmer of good news with CAAT winning the right to a judicial review of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.  The government has resisted this naturally enough but CAAT has won through.

The UK government – with the USA – has helped support terrible humanitarian and economic damage on this country.  It has behaved less than honestly.  When and if the conflict ends there will be need to carry out massive reconstruction.  Once again we have been involved in destabilising a country with little thought to the aftermath.  Parliamentary scrutiny has been lamentable.


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War in Yemen

For most of this year we have been commenting on the war in Yemen and the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.  We wrote to the Salisbury MP John Glen, who replied enclosing a bland statement from the Foreign Office Minister, Tobias Ellwood.  We have noted the government’s activities in getting the Saudi’s onto the UN’s Human Rights Council and the continued supply of arms to the Saudis despite their use in Yemen on civilian targets, schools and medical facilities.  We have also noted the steady softening of policies to make it easier – it is believed – for arms companies to ply their trade.  The Telegraph reported in an article in February, the difference between Syria and Yemen.  In the former country, bombing of a MSF hospital led to outrage by press and politicians in the UK:  by contrast, bombing of MSF hospitals in Yemen is greeted by a deafening silence :

Alas, this is not merely about Western indifference but about complicity and collusion. Last October, Britain and the US successfully blocked plans for a UN independent investigation into potential war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. This was a unique opportunity to hold all sides of the conflict accountable for their actions. Instead, Saudi Arabia has been allowed to investigate itself through its own internal commission.  (24 Feb 2016)

Then, on Thursday 21st July when parliament rose, there was a curious statement issued by the FCO.  It has been forced to retract numerous written and oral statements to parliament which said ministers had assessed that Saudi Arabia was not in breach of international humanitarian law in Yemen.

The admission led to calls by the Liberal Democrats for an investigation into Saudi behaviour in Yemen and a suspension of UK arms sales.  The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly claimed that the Saudi military campaign has targeted civilians.  We also drew attention in a previous blog to the presence of British service personnel in Saudi control rooms.  The Foreign Office said the incorrect statements – made by three different ministers, some as far back as six months ago – were errors and did not represent an attempt to mislead MPs over its assessment of the Saudi campaign.

It stressed that other written answers had made clear that the UK government had made no assessment of whether the Saudis were in breach of humanitarian law.

The last day of parliament is a favourite time to slip out inconvenient statements since there is no time for questions or debate to take place.  The FCO simply said it had been reviewing the correspondence.

The government is facing a court case arguing that it should ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia.  The Guardian newspaper said:

In its written answer published on Thursday, the Foreign Office said written answers in February 2016 had stated: “We have assessed that there has not been a breach of IHL (international humanitarian law) by the coalition.” The correction said these should have stated: “We have not assessed that there has been a breach of IHL by the coalition.”

The Foreign Office also corrected a written answer by the then foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, who stated on 4 January 2016: “I regularly review the situation with my own advisers and have discussed it on numerous occasions with my Saudi counterpart. Our judgment is that there is no evidence that IHL has been breached, but we shall continue to review the situation regularly.”

This is something of a volt face and to issue such a statement on the last day of parliament is shameful.  It achieved its object however with next to no media coverage.  Why does it matter?  We are currently suffering a severe threat from ISIS with a recent outrage in Nice said to be inspired by the group.  Saudi Arabia’s activities in Yemen, supported by US and UK weapons, personnel and political cover, provide an ideal recruiting ground for this terrorist group.  At present all eyes are on Syria but how long will it be before our activities in Yemen come under the spotlight?


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Saudi Arabia has successful blackmailed the UN to remove itself from a blacklist

Source: youthhealthmag.com

Human rights groups around the world have condemned the decision by the U.N. to remove Saudi Arabia from a blacklist of countries which are accused of abusing children’s rights.  This arises from their bombing activities in the Yemen conflict but also the general treatment of children in Saudi.  In Yemen, 1,953 children were killed and it is estimated that 60% of these deaths are as a result of Saudi bombing.  Britain is a major supplier of weapons to the regime and British service personnel are advising the Saudis.

The kingdom, who routinely violates their own citizens’ human rights on a daily basis, threw a fit when the UN published its report and threatened to withhold funding from the organisation.

Foreign Policy reported that:

senior Saudi diplomats told top U.N. officials Riyadh would use its influence to convince other Arab governments and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to sever ties with the United Nations.

On Monday, Ban Ki-moon said

The Saudi coalition would be removed from the list, pending a review. Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi insisted the removal was “irreversible and unconditional.”

Human rights groups, including Amnesty, have rightfully condemned and blasted the UN for their reversal:

It appears that political power and diplomatic clout have been allowed to trump the U.N.’s duty to expose those responsible for the killing and maiming of more than 1,000 of Yemen’s children,

Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, said in a statement:

The decision to retract its finding is a moral failure and goes against everything the U.N. is meant to stand for.

Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch deputy director for global advocacy, said that the office “has hit a new low by capitulating to Saudi Arabia’s brazen pressure” and “Yemen’s children deserve better.”

Amnesty International’s UN office claimed:

…if the U.N. doesn’t start standing up for human rights and its own principles then they will become part of the problem rather than the solution.

Saudi Arabia will not be the first country to browbeat the UN – at one time or another all countries have done it especially where embarrassing national interest is a stake.  This does seem to have been an especially egregious example however as the Saudi state’s crimes against children, and others, is well documented.  Combined with the bizarre election of the Saudi’s onto the Human Rights Council of the UN – supported shamefully by the UK Government – it begins to make a mockery of this international body.

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“Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty to silence dissent sends a chilling message to anybody who dares to speak out against the authorities.” James Lynch
The families of three young men arrested for their involvement in anti-government protests while under the age of 18, fear their sons are among four people reported to be facing execution tomorrow, Amnesty International said today.
The family of Ali al-Nimr expressed fears on social media that he, along with Dawood Hussein al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher, is among the prisoners referred to in a government-run newspaper article published today. The article said the scheduled executions will complete a wave of punishments for terrorism offences that saw 47 people executed on the same day in January.

See the full story:

Executions


British involvement in the war in the Yemen

News programmes and newspapers generally are currently filled with arguments over Brexit, the American primaries, Syria and immigration.  Only occasionally does the war in Yemen and our involvement in it get a mention.  An exception was an interview by Frank Gardner [FG], the BBC’s Security correspondent, with Michael Fallon [MF] the Defence Secretary on Wednesday 2 March on the BBC’s Today programme.  It is worth reproducing most of it as it lays bare the thinness of the arguments deployed by Mr Fallon and also its inconsistencies.

Gardner introduces the piece by referring to the ‘unseen war’ which has waged for 5 years and the involvement by western powers in supplying the munitions to enable it to be carried on.  Indeed, Mr Cameron recently backed what he termed the ‘brilliant’ arms sales to Saudi Arabia only a matter of hours after the European Union voted to ban further supplies.  More arms firms are cashing in on the Yemen conflict and sales have surged to £2.8bn since the conflict began.

Michael Fallon said ‘British officers are offering training and advice to the Saudi armed forces, they are not involved in advising selection or the approval of targets in the war in Yemen.  On the contrary [they] are there to support the equipment we have supplied.’

FG: ‘You must be feeling a bit uneasy that some of that equipment, or the aircraft used to deliver it, is the Saudis have admitted, hitting hospitals and civilian targets?’

MF: We have some of the strictest arms control criteria in the world.  Before we supply equipment to anyone including obviously our key allies such as Saudi Arabia, we insist that they not only comply with international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict …’ [interview ends]

FG said that he had spoken to a senior Saudi spokesman who denied that civilian targets were being bombed.  He then spoke to a Yemeni researcher about what ordinary Yemeni’s think of western, and in particular US and UK involvement, in this war.  She said that people on the ground are definitely aware of the involvement of the US and UK in the bombing.  What, asked Gardner, was the likely long-term effects of this?  She said:

The long-term effect is not only civilians dying and that the country is at a standstill, [but] what we are seeing is youth joining al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsular and the Islamic State.

Gardner wound up by saying that the longer this war goes on without a result and the continued absence of the rule of law then the greater the risks that terrorist groups will profit from the chaos and build a ‘mini-state.’

Conclusions

There is no doubt that we are helping to fuel this conflict.  If our service personnel are there to ‘support the equipment we have supplied’ why was it all kept a secret until blurted out by a Saudi spokesman?  And what does ‘supporting equipment we have supplied’ mean anyway?  If weapons are being used to kill civilians does our ‘support’ make it better or worse?  The statement is meaningless.

But the big political error is to be involved at all and it could be laying the foundation stones of the next stage of ISIS’s development.  His statement that we have some of the ‘strictest arms control criteria in the world’ verges on the bizarre if the criteria are not being applied.

Our passion for arms sales has blinded politicians to the risks being run.  It’s all very well for the Prime Minister to be praising aircraft builders for their ‘brilliant’ achievements but if those planes are used to kill civilians, where does it take us?

In 2011, the then Foreign Secretary William Hague made a speech on human rights in which he said:

and how we are seen to uphold our values is a crucial component of our influence in the world.

He went on to say:

If change can be achieved peacefully in the Middle East it will be the biggest advance of democratic freedoms since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.  If it cannot, we are likely to see turmoil and unrest which sets hack the cause of democracy and human rights

It would seem these ideas have been forgotten.


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Britain’s involvement in Yemen war described in detail

In this blog – our longest yet – we reproduce an article published in Dissident Voice which discussed in detail the role the British government is playing in supporting the Saudi government, by supplying arms and providing personnel, in its war in the Yemen.   Most of the material here will be familiar to readers but it is useful to have a separate voice.  Our local MP Mr John Glen has, so far, been silent on these matters. 

It is more than possible to speculate why Prime Minister David Cameron has declared it his mission to scrap the Human Rights Act – which is incorporated into the European Convention on Human Rights – it appears he simply does not believe in human rights.

For example, the fact that Saudi Arabia executed – including beheadings – forty seven people in one day last month, displaying their bodies from gibbets, failed to deter him from having British military experts to work with their Saudi counterparts, advising on which targets – and which people, it seems – to bomb in Yemen. Parliament has not been consulted, thus, without a chance to debate and vote, democracy too has been suspended.

The fact that in May 2013 Saudi also beheaded five Yemenis, then used cranes to display their headless bodies against the skyline (Al-Akhbar, May 21st, 2013) also did not trouble him.  Neither did that by November 10th, 2015, the year’s total executions had already reached one hundred and fifty one, the highest for twenty years, in what Amnesty International called “a bloody executions spree.”

But why care about human rights or outright savagery when there are arms to be sold?  As written previously, in one three month period last year UK arms sales to Saudi soared by 11,000%.  From a mere nine million pounds the preceding three months: “The exact figure for British arms export licences from July to September 2015 was £1,066,216,510 in so-called ‘ML4’ export licenses, which relate to bombs, missiles, rockets, and components of those items.”

Priority Countries

Cameron’s government treats such barbarism with astonishing sanguinity.  For instance, it has come to light that in 2011 the UK drew up a list of thirty: “‘priority countries’ where British diplomats would be ‘encouraged’ to ‘proactively drive forward’ and make progress towards abolishing the death penalty over five years.’ “

Saudi Arabia was not on the list, an omission which Amnesty International’s Head of Policy, Alan Hogarth called “astonishing.” (Independent, January 5th, 2016.)  However, a Foreign Office spokeswoman told the Independent that: “A full list of countries of concern was published in March 2015 in the (UK) Annual Human Rights Report and that includes Saudi Arabia and its use of the death penalty.”

Wrong.  In the Report under “Abolition of the Death Penalty”, there is much concentration on countries in the (UK) “Commonwealth Caribbean” and a casual, subservient nod at the US, but no mention of Saudi. Under “The Death Penalty”, Jordan and Pakistan, were mentioned, as was the “particular focus on two … regions, Asia and the Commonwealth Caribbean.”  Singapore, Malaysia, China and Taiwan, Japan (the latter, three executions in 2014) Suriname and Vietnam are cited. Saudi Arabia is nowhere to be found.

Under the heading Torture Prevention, there is a quote by David Cameron: “Torture is always wrong” (December 9th, 2014). Paragraph one includes: “The impact on victims, their families and their communities is devastating. It can never be justified in any circumstance.”  A number of countries are listed.  No prizes for guessing, in spite of medieval torture practices, which is not.

However, under “Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law” there is:

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued revised guidance on the human rights aspects of OSJA (Overseas Security and Justice Guidance) in February 2014.  The guidance ensures that officials do their utmost to identify risks of UK actions causing unintended human rights consequences.

What an irony as David Cameron is currently moving heaven and earth to halt legal action against British soldiers accused of acts of extreme human rights abuses in Iraq.  As Lesley Docksey has written:

The said ‘brave servicemen’ are in danger of being taken to Court over their abusive treatment, and in some cases murder, of Iraqi detainees during the invasion of Iraq.  Hundreds of complaints have been lodged with the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which was investigating between 1,300 -1,500 cases.  Many are simple complaints of ill treatment during detention, but some are far more serious:

  • Death(s) while detained by the British Army
  • Deaths outside British Army base or after contact with British Army
  • Many deaths following ‘shooting incidents’.

Worse, the British government is considering taking action against one of the law firms dealing with some of the cases, Leigh Day, with another, Public Interest Lawyers, in their sights. When it comes to hypocrisy, David Cameron is hard to beat.

Arms sales

Worth noting is that in the UK government’s own list of “countries of humanitarian concern”, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), the UK has sold weapons to twenty four out of twenty seven of them, with Saudi Arabia in a deal to purchase seventy two Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft in a deal worth an eventual £4.5 Billion.

Aside from the purchase of the Typhoon jets, major deals between Saudi Arabia and British companies include a £1.6bn agreement for Hawk fighter jets and bulk sales of machine guns, bombs and tear gas.  [We can add here that Salisbury firm Chemring’s accounts show a high level of sales to Saudi sufficient to be separately identified under company law]

In fact, Saudi Arabia have access to twice as many British-made warplanes as the RAF does, while bombs originally stockpiled by Britain’s Armed Forces are being sent to Saudi Arabia” – to currently decimate Yemen.

The overriding message is that human rights are playing second fiddle to company profits,

said CAAT spokesperson Andrew Smith, adding:

The Government and local authorities up and down the country are profiting directly from the bombing of Yemen. Challenging them to divest from Saudi Arabia … is something people can do directly.

In the light of a fifty one page UN Report on the bombing of Yemen obtained by various parties on January 27th, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an immediate suspension of arms sales to Saudi, pending the outcome of an independent Inquiry.  David Cameron stated, farcically, that: “Britain had the strictest rules governing arms sales of almost any country, anywhere in the world.”

However, in one of the key findings, the UN Report says:

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.

It adds:

The panel documented 119 coalition sorties relating to violations of international humanitarian law.  It also reported cases of civilians fleeing and being chased and shot at by helicopters.  Moreover it stated that the humanitarian crisis was compounded by the Saudi blockade of ships carrying fuel, food and other essentials that are trying to reach Yemen.

The panel said that: “civilians are disproportionately affected” and deplored tactics that: “constitute the prohibited use of starvation as a method of warfare.” (Emphasis added.)

David Mepham, UK Director of Human Rights Watch commented:

For almost a year, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has made the false and misleading claim that there is no evidence of laws of war violations by the UK’s Saudi ally and other members of the coalition.

The UK Ministry of Defence, declining to say how many UK military advisers were in Saudi Command and Control Centres, said that the UK was: “… offering Saudi Arabia advice and training on best practice targeting techniques to help ensure continued compliance with International Humanitarian Law.” (Guardian, January 27th, 2016.)  Yet another quote from the “You could not make this up” files.

It has to be wondered whether the Ministry’s “best practice targeting techniques” includes the near one hundred attacks on medical facilities between March and October 2015, a practice which compelled the International Committee of the Red Cross, in November, to declare the organization: “appalled by the continuing attacks on health care facilities in Yemen …”

They issued their statement after:

Al-Thawra hospital, one of the main health care facilities in Taiz which is providing treatment for about fifty injured people every day was reportedly shelled several times …)

It is not the first time health facilities have been attacked … Close to a hundred similar incidents have been reported since March 2015. (Emphases added.)

Deliberate attacks on health facilities represent a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law (IHL).”

An earlier attempt to have the UN Human rights Council establish an Inquiry failed due to objections from Saudi Arabia, who, with help from Britain, currently Chairs an influential panel on the same Human Rights Council.  Farce is alive and well in the corridors of the UN.

Attacks on medical facilities

The repeated attacks on a targeted medical facility and other IHL protected buildings and places of sanctuary is a testimony to the total disregard for International Humanitarian Law, by the British, US and their allies and those they “advise”, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and now Yemen.

However, in spite of the horrors under which Yemenis are suffering and dying, and Saudi’s appalling Tobias Ellwwod MPhuman rights deficit, UK Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood, an American-born former soldier, in a visit to Saudi Arabia last month was quoted in the country’s Al Watan newspaper as revealing:

the ignorance of the British to the notable progress in Saudi Arabia in the field of human rights, confirming throughout the visit of a British FCO delegation… that he had expressed his opinion regarding the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia before the British Parliament, and that the notable progress in this area has been obscured.

The Foreign Office strongly denied that Ellwood had expressed such a view.

The Saudi led, British advised and US ”intelligence” provided coalition is reported to have formed “an independent team of experts” to assess “incidents” (which should be described as outrages and war crimes) in order to reach “conclusions, lessons learned …” etc. Thus, as ever, the arsonist is to investigate the cause of the fire.

Amnesty, Human rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières (who have had three medical facilities bombed) and The Campaign to Stop Bombing in Yemen have all called for an independent Inquiry with the power to hold those responsible for atrocities to account.  None of which, however, would bring back the dead, restore the disabled, disfigured, limbless, or beautiful, ruined, ancient Yemen – another historical Paradise lost.


Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.

This article was posted on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 at 11:30am and is filed under Death Penalty, Human Rights, Militarism, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United Nations, War Crimes, Weaponry, Yemen.

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