Posts Tagged ‘UK’

MSF in Yemen

Posted: July 30, 2017 in arms trade, Yemen
Tags: , , , , , ,

A doctor working for Médicins sans Frontières shares her experiences of working in Yemen

Hella Hultin is a Swedish surgeon who is working for MSF in Yemen.  In the current issue, she writes of her experiences of working in Khameeer in northern Yemen.

We were about to do an appendectomy on a girl, but my Yemeni colleague thought I might be tired after the long journey.  So I sat in the operating room to watch.  Suddenly both our phones rang.  The voice on the other end was stressed asking me to come straight to the emergency room.

“Help! How do I get there?” I thought, while I quickly put on a white coat and hurried out, so fast the cats outside scattered in all directions.  “Emergency?” I asked the attendant outside, and was pointed in the right direction.

When I arrived, the Emergency room was full of people, both patients and relatives.  Many patients were being rolled in on stretchers from the ambulance entrance.  I was told there had been an airstrike and more injured would be arriving soon.  The injured were all covered in dust and dirt, and almost all had wounds from shrapnel.  Several had fractures of the arms or legs, and some had burns on their face and hands.

A desperate husband was running around the room screaming.  When I managed to get the interpreter to translate what he was saying, it turned out he was missing two of his children who had been caught up in the strike.  It’s not hard to imagine his anxiety.

We got to work and ended up operating all night.  We transferred two of the most seriously injured to a larger hospital for specialist treatment that we were unable to provide.

Hours later I made it to bed.  As I lay down, it felt like I’d been there for weeks.

We do not know from this account the nature of the airstrike but there is no suggestion that those injured are military personnel.  Accounts from people working inside Yemen are scarce as the Saudi’s have blockaded the country.  Only a few journalists have managed to get in and there was a radio report last week of BBC’s Radio 4 news (limited time podcast).

We cannot tie this account to a strike using British weapons but we are a major supplier of materiel to the regimeThe High Court recently absolved the UK government in a case brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.


Follow us on Twitter or Facebook, salisburyai.  If you live in the Salisbury area and would like to join us you would be very welcome.  Just keep and eye on this site or Facebook or twitter and come along to an event and make yourself known.  It is free to join the local group.


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

 

 

 

 


British weapons being used to bomb civilians

This week we have been treated to speeches in Parliament and a great deal of press interest on the question of bombing Isis.  The political temperature rose after the terrible events in Paris and the indiscriminate killing of people sitting in cafés and at a pop concert.

The government would now like the UK to join in the bombing campaign against Isis positions and David Cameron gave a lengthy speech in Parliament setting out his justifications for that course of action.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, another terrible conflict is in progress and yet this receives almost no coverage in the press.  Thousands have died (one estimate is 5,700) including an estimated 400 children, and airstrikes by Saudi Arabian forces are bombing the country on a daily basis.  Schools and hospitals are bombed and cluster bombs are being used in contravention of international treaties.

Paveway missile sold to the Saudis

Paveway missile sold to the Saudis

The difference is that Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of our weapons – indeed an estimated half of all weapons sales by the UK go there – so they are an important customer.  Little is said to criticise them and readers of this blog will be aware of our attempts to get our government to take a more robust line in view of their multiple human rights abuses.

Amnesty and HRW have criticised the US government for agreeing to sell an unbelievable $1.3bn (£860m) of further ordinance to replenish stocks used in the campaign.  This is in breach of the Arms Trade Treaty since the weapons are being used against civilians.  Médecins sans Frontières report:

… ordinary people are bearing the brunt of an increasingly brutal conflict.  Severe water shortages combined with airstrikes, sniper attacks and a fuel blockade have rapidly turned this conflict into a humaniitarian crisis, with over one million people displaced from their homes.  The need for food, water, shelter, sanitation and medical care is growing daily.

Many clinics and hospitals have been destroyed, and those that are still functioning are in urgent need of more medical supplies.  Yemen: A country under siege

AI and Human Rights Watch are in no doubt that UK and US supplied munitions are being used to cause this mayhem in Yemen.  Up until now we have received nothing but bland assurances from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and from our MP.  But recent events including changes to the Ministerial code and a downgrading of human rights in policy matters, seems to indicate that it is profit before humanity which is the key factor.

This might change because now that British made weaponry is turning up in Yemen thus causing some concern in the FCO.  They are beginning to question the wisdom of supplying the Saudis who then use the stuff to kill ordinary civilians.  We could just be indicted for war crimes.  They are also worried that we are helping create the conditions for an Isis type organisation to establish themselves in Yemen.

So while speeches are made about bombing Isis, we are busy supplying the weaponry to create another catastrophe on the Saudi peninsular…

Sources:

MSF;  The Independent;  Belfast Telegraph;  Business News;  HRW

 

 

 


Reading this blog can sometimes seem depressing as we highlight individuals imprisoned for their beliefs; the widespread use of torture around the world; the use of the death penalty and recently, a desire by some of our (UK) politicians to abolish the Human Rights Act.

Successes

There are successes however, some of which have been a long time in the making. After six years of legal proceedings and campaigning by Amnesty members around the world, Shell Oil have at last been made to pay for the devastation caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta.

wire tap imageOthers successes have been unprecedented. For the first time ever, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that UK secret services acted illegally in their surveillance activities.

And that’s not all. Because of you Guadalupe found justice in El Salvador. With a window of just 48 hours, we asked you to tweet El Salvador’s members of parliament calling for a pardon for Guadalupe – a young woman imprisoned after suffering a miscarriage. Every tweet counted: her pardon was granted by a majority of just one vote. Thank you. We’re continuing our work to ensure Salvadoran women are not criminalised by the total abortion ban in the country

Burma has dropped off the radar in the last couple of years and things have improved there.   But not totally and there are still prisoners of conscience. For example, long-standing prisoner of conscience Dr Tun Aung has recently secured release.

February saw two historic victories in the age-old battle for the right to privacy and free expression. The USA and UK’s past intelligence-sharing on Communications surveillance was ruled illegal and the Security Services conceded their current regime for intercepting legally privileged communications is also unlawful. These landmark rulings, in which Amnesty were co-claimants, should mean there are more significant positive changes ahead.


A great step towards justice was made in January when three journalists imprisoned in Egypt had their sentences overturned on the basis of a flawed trial. Peter Greste was allowed to return home to Australia but Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed are awaiting a retrial in Egypt, currently set for 22 April. Egypt must now drop all charges against them and free, not retry these prisoners of conscience.

Forced to sign a confession after being kidnapped and tortured by marines, Claudia Medina Tamariz has had the last of the charges against her dropped, and she is now a free woman.  Claudia thanked the 300,000 Amnesty members around the world who demanded justice.  We continue to call for an investigation into the torture she suffered, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

A month after Claudia’s release, the Mexican president came to the UK and we delivered your Stop Torture petition signatures to him – in a giant piñata. Ahead of the visit you called on the UK representatives meeting him to raise the issue of torture. Guess what? They did. Thanks to Amnesty supporters campaigning, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland all helped send a strong message: it’s time for Mexico to respect human rights.

So campaigning does sometimes work.


#stoptorture #deathpenalty.  The November report on the death penalty is attached thanks to groupNo to the death penalty member Lesley for compiling this.

Death Penalty Report


Don’t forget you can access other sites with a human rights theme from the blog roll at the bottom of this page.


The world has been horrified by the films, reports and photographs coming out of #Gaza since the latest violence started.  Amnesty teams – along with other organisations – have been in Gaza to assess the damage and have found evidence of war crimes by both sides in the conflict.  There have been serious violations by both parties but since the Israel Defence Force is the best equipped army and air force in the region by far, the damage and destruction has been predominantly on the Palestinian side.

Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel but with the protection of Iron Dome, few have resulted in casualties.  The casualties on the Palestinian side have now passed 2000 (12 August, Sky News) with 67 Israeli deaths.  Many of the Palestinian casualties are women and children, killed in strikes on schools, mosques and hospitals.

Israel is able to carry on its attacks secure in the knowledge that it has, and continues to have, the support of the United States.  Indeed, the USA has continued to supply weapons to replace those lost in the latest fighting.  The United Kingdom supplied £6.3m in weapons to Israel last year.

It seems clear to most outside observers that whatever the provocation Israel has suffered, the scale of destruction in Gaza has been disproportionate.  This latest incursion follows hard on operation Cast Lead which also wrought terrible destruction in the territory.

Nor is the suffering imposed limited to the fighting but comes on top of the relentless expansion of settlements and the blockade of Gaza which has now lasted over seven years.  Gaza is in effect a prison surrounded by a stifling regime of checkpoints, barriers and walls.  They are not allowed to catch fish in the sea.  Inhabitants also have to endure power and water cuts for no apparent reason.

Protest in the south of France

Protest in the south of France

Is there any hope in all this?  Surprisingly, there may be.  It will not come from the ceasefires and feeble political statements wishing peace while at the same time continuing to sell arms.  The key difference this time is that Israel is losing the propaganda war.  Such is the volume of evidence emerging from Gaza, the harrowing footage of injured children and pictures of the scale of destruction, that people around the world have been moved to protest (see picture).

British Ministers are forbidden to use the word ‘disproportionate’ in their various statements.  But the public can see that it is.  Nick Clegg described the attacks on schools as ‘outrageous’.  Israel is desperate to avoid its actions going to the International Criminal Court and will no doubt succeed with US help in so doing.

With Cast Lead, the Israelis were able to keep journalists out of Gaza so that very little was seen on our TV screens.  This time, with a range of devices, images are coming through loud and clear.  This is another example of the public seeing things for what they are and politicians being behind the curve.  Support for Israel is still strong in the United States certainly among Senators and Congressmen, but younger people are not so supportive.  This is likely to be the key difference this time.

Visit the South Region site of Amnesty

Amnesty International comments on Gaza

Stop arming Israel