The ongoing war in Yemen has led to thousands of innocent civilians dying. The irony is that the people investigating the crimes, are the same people doing the bombing.
For over three years, the international community has been presented with one sham US-Saudi investigation after another in regards to the human cost the war in Yemen has exacted on the Yemeni people.
With that said, expecting a country to investigate its own war crimes in an honest and transparent manner is akin to expecting the proverbial wolf to provide an accurate head count of the chickens he suddenly came to reign over in the proverbial hen house.
Human Rights Watch found that US-Saudi coalition forces routinely exonerate their respective forces, and place unjustifiable blame on their victims, while denying all culpability even in the face of irrefutable evidence that contradicts their claims.
“For more then two years, the coalition has claimed that the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) was credibly investigating allegedly unlawful airstrikes, but the investigators were doing little more than covering up war crimes,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. “Governments selling arms to Saudi Arabia should recognise that the coalition’s sham investigations do not protect them from being complicit in serious violations in Yemen.”
Moreover, US-Saudi coalition atrocities are occurring in greater frequency and resulting in even more suffering. Last month alone 40 Yemeni schoolchildren were murdered, most under 10 years old, along with a dozen chaperones, by a US missile fired from a Saudi warplane on August 9. Barely two weeks later, another US assisted Saudi airstrike killed 30 civilians, including 20 children near the port city of Hodeida on August 24.
In fact, more than 450 civilians were killed during the first nine days of August, making it one of the deadliest periods since the conflict began more than three years ago.
Even US military generals are now calling out the Saudi government for conducting sham investigations into coalition airstrikes, with Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, the top US air commander in the Middle East, urging the Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations to be more forthcoming about its investigation into civilian deaths in the month of August.
“There’s a level of frustration we need to acknowledge,” General Harrigian said in a recent interview. “They need to come out and say what occurred there.”
Finally, however, an independent and wide-ranging investigation into the war in Yemen was released by the United Nations, and it reads as an unequivocal condemnation of all belligerents for having likely “perpetrated, and continue to perpetrate, violations and crimes under international law.”
The 41-page report was conducted by the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen, and sponsored by the UN. The authors make a compelling case that US-backed bombings in what is the Middle East’s poorest country constitute a war crime.
While the Houthis, Iran, UAE, and a consortium of militia groups also come under fire for their respective roles in contributing towards what has become the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, the report is especially damning of the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians and vital infrastructure, and the devastation that has caused the Yemeni population.
“Coalition air strikes have caused most of the documented civilian casualties. In the past three years, such air strikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities,” the authors of the report observed.
“The Group of Experts has investigated 13 such incidents by interviewing victims, witnesses and other credible sources; analysing satellite imagery, photographs and videos; and visiting sites in the Hudaydah, Sa’dah and Sana’a governorates.”
According to an array of media reports, more than 10,000 have been killed in the conflict to date, but this death toll has been in circulation for the past two years, and thus grossly underestimates the total carnage and severity of suffering caused by the belligerents in this ongoing proxy war. For instance, a highly visible and credible international aid group claims 50,000 Yemeni children died in 2017 alone, mostly of starvation and disease, alleging that 150 are dying every day as a result of the Saudi blockade and bombardment.
“The coalition has imposed severe naval and air restrictions in Yemen, to varying degrees, since March 2015. There are reasonable grounds to believe that these restrictions imposed by the coalition constitute a violation of the proportionality rule of international humanitarian law. Moreover, the effective closure of Sana’a airport is a violation of international humanitarian law protection for the sick and wounded. Such acts, together with the requisite intent, may amount to international crimes,” claim the authors of the report.
When you combine these credible allegations with a myriad of others, including those that have made the case that US-backed Saudi warplanes have intentionally targeted Yemen’s food production and agricultural sector in what has been dubbed a “scorched-earth strategy,” you come to understand who is exactly to blame for why 14 million Yemenis—which represents more than half of the population—are facing starvation, and disease.
Thanks to the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen, however, we have a clearer picture of what and who is inflicting the lion's share of death and destruction in Yemen: it’s the US backed Saudi coalition.
Now we know who is responsible, the international community must pressure the belligerents into ceasing attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. The Congress of the United States should immediately cut off all military aid and assistance to its Gulf Arab allies until the conflict is wound down, and a peace agreement negotiated.
The appetite for ending US involvement in Yemen is already high among the American public, while an ever-increasing number of political leaders on both sides of the aisle have expressed their eagerness to halt the conflict.
The days of sham investigations into Yemen’s existential crisis, which have helped prolong the conflict by keeping the general public in the dark, are now over. We now know the god-awful truth. It’s time our elected leaders act like it.
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