Anti-war voices magnify over human rights violations in Yemen

Anti-war voices magnify over human rights violations in Yemen
Comment: More pressure is coming for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, after the UN placed Saudi Arabia on a human rights blacklist last week, writes Khalid Al-Karimi.
5 min read
09 Oct, 2017
The Yemeni conflict has left thousands of children without homes or parents [AFP]
Saudi Arabia is no longer off the UN blacklist for human rights violations. The Kingdom has been spoiled by the UN for over two years, but this hiding has now come to an end. The UN can no longer overlook Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

Last week, the UN blacklisted Saudi Arabia for killing hundreds of Yemeni children in the  bloody airstrikes the Kingdom has been conducting in Yemen for over two years and a half.

Every time the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes commit a massacre in Yemen, two justifications are made. One is that the airstrike hit the wrong target because of a technical error; the other is the target was a military outpost.

Over the past two years, the UN has displayed a lenient and supportive stance of the Saudi war on Yemen. This lenience and support has waned as the war crimes in Yemen continue to degrade human life: - the fresh blacklist was a clear proof of the UN's shift towards a more outspoken stance.  

The Saudi murderous airstrikes are too numerous to include in this piece. However, the world still remembers the latest gruesome air raid that annihilated an entire family, save for one little girl, Bouthaina.

TranslationIf you can remember the noises made over massacres in Burma,
then also remember how the
#Bouthaina incident spread across the world. 

In August of this year, a night-time airstrike hit a family home in Sanaa, leaving several civilians dead and injured, also damaging several nearby homes. At the time, the coalition attributed the massacre to a " technical error".

However, the justification was not sufficient to silence human rights activists and the media all over the world.  An anti-Saudi hashtag campaign went viral under #BouthainaTheEyeOfHumanity.

As the Saudi-led coalition persists in bombarding the wrong targets in Yemen, the anti-Saudi voices magnify. Since the breakout of the war in March 2015, the Arab coalition has been capitalizing on its political and financial clout to impact on the impartiality of the UN.

In 2016, the UN withdrew the Arab Coalition in Yemen from its blacklist in the wake of heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia.

That happened following numerous Saudi debates, negotiations and protests. Today, the times have changed and the UN has grown fed up with Saudi violations in Yemen.

While the former UN Secretary-General kept up preferential treatment of Saudi Arabia, the current Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has shown a powerful and neutral stance towards war atrocities in Yemen, committed by all sides.

"The coalition's actions objectively led to the listing for the killing and maiming of children, with 683 child casualties attributed to this party, and as a result of being responsible for 38 verified incidents, for attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016," Guterres said.

When war broke out, many Yemenis thought Saudi Arabia would only fight the Houthis and not kill civilians recklessly

The UN's recent move to blacklist the Kingdom is an indicator of the excessive human rights breaches committed by the oil-rich Arab country. When war broke out, many Yemenis thought Saudi Arabia would only fight the Houthis and not kill civilians recklessly. Sadly, the civilian casualties now number higher than the deaths of Houthi fighters.

The air raids have left tremendous losses on Yemen's infrastructure, punishing multitudes of Yemeni people severely - and not only the Houthi militants. Due to this imprecise bombardment, the Houthis have earned the support, or at least the sympathy, of many voices in Yemen and abroad. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition is losing the support of millions of Yemenis and other people around the globe.

Human rights violations

The legal team at the Yemen Transitional Justice Network (YTJN) late last month met in The Hague with a number of lawyers and international law experts to finalise a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, to be presented to the International Court of Justice.

This lawsuit aims to investigate the crimes and violations committed by Riyadh in Yemen and hold the perpetrators accountable.

One human rights advocate at the YTJN said they have prepared a written memorandum of the lawsuit that will be submitted to the Intentional Court of Justice this month. The lawsuit is accompanied by evidence of the stark brutality of the Saudi-led airstrikes which allegedly breach international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes against Yemeni civilians.

The YTJN will hand the lawsuit to the International Court of Justice on behalf of Yemeni individuals whose houses and economic facilities were hit by Saudi-led airstrikes.

UN figures show these airstrikes have killed over 10,000 people since early 2015, in addition to thousands of injuries and three million internally displaced persons. The humanitarian situation has become even more catastrophic as famine and epidemics have claimed thousands more lives every day.

Read more: Remembering Yemen's deadly funeral hall bombing

The two main parties to the conflict, the Saudi-backed coalition and the Houthi-backed armed groups, are responsible for the bloodshed and suffering of civilians in Yemen. They should exercise more caution, rather than blaming one another for the continuous killing and maiming of civilians including children.

Today, Saudi Arabia has been placed on the blacklist of human rights violations. This UN resolution is not a political or a manipulative step. Instead, it is a necessary measure to help protect childhood in Yemen.

Khalid Al-Karimi is a freelance reporter and translator. He is a staff member of the Sanaa-based Yemeni Media Center and previously worked as a full-time editor and reporter for the Yemen Times newspaper. 

Follow him on Twitter: @Khalidkarimi205

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.