DECEMBER 9, 2022
Yemen Opinion

Are alleged war crimes only in Ukraine?

Are alleged war crimes only in Ukraine?

By Tehran Times Editorial Team

The West has sanctioned Russian officials and military personnel but continues to defend arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in the war on Yemen.

This is a duplicity and exercise of double standards. The West also attempts to politicize international law for domestic and national interests.

The Western position on civilian harm and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in Yemen and continued licensing of arms exports to Saudi Arabia are quite inconsistent with the policy it has adopted toward the Ukraine war.

Western governments have stated that civilian deaths and destruction of civilian infrastructure by Russia in Ukraine are in many cases in serious violation of IHL.

However, when it comes to the war on Yemen, the U.S., the UK, Canada and many European governments have kept silent on the atrocities and war crimes that have been documented by multiple monitoring and aid groups over the past eight years.

This silence shows that as the West is a complicit in the Ukraine war, it is also complicit in the Yemen war.

The impunity for violations undermines any further Western efforts to publicly preach to others about respecting international law.

The eight-year bombing of Yemen is viewed as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, backing the former Yemeni government, and the new revolutionary government in the capital Sana'a led by a coalition of parties named Ansarallah. 

But it has always been more complex than that.

Involvement by a terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda and the creation of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a body advocating independence for southern Yemen, complicate things, as do other local conflicts.

One of these conflicts is between Ansarallah, battling the al-Qaeda-linked terror group on one hand and defending the country's territorial integrity on the other. 

Senior Yemeni politicians have regularly declared that U.S. arms shipments for the Saudis to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, along with other means of support such as intelligence and training. 

Yemeni officials have always referred to their enemies as the U.S.-Saudi coalition opposed to Western media and politicians that refer to those waging war on Yemen as a Saudi-led coalition. 

The legacy of the conflict also plays a factor.

As a result of British imperialism followed by the several decades of Saudi Arabia's control of almost all Yemeni sectors continues to have a major impact.

However, the ongoing war on Yemen, the mass suffering of its people and large-scale destruction to the country's infrastructure would not have been possible without arming Saudi Arabia. 

The U.S, the UK and Canada followed by European countries are Saudi Arabia’s largest arms suppliers. 

U.S. arms shipments to Riyadh over the past decade have reportedly exceeded $300 billion. 

UK sales alone since 2015 are likely to amount to over £20 billion.

There have been many alleged war crimes that have been committed against Yemenis. Reports by prominent monitoring groups should be taken into account and hold the Western governments accountable for their complicity in helping the Saudis in the war on Yemen.

While the West claims Iran has been supporting one side of the Yemen war, the reality that is Tehran has never shipped any weapons to Sana'a (nor has it smuggled any). 
Iranian officials have repeatedly dismissed Western allegations of arming Ansarallah. 

Iran has never been an external combatant in the war.

The all-out air, sea and land blockade of Yemen has prevented the vital fuel and humanitarian supplies from reaching the country, let alone weapons.

Any vessels or fuel tankers attempting to reach the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah are first inspected by the United Nations and then sent to Saudi Arabia for another round of inspection.

In many cases, these vessels, in particular those delivering fuel are prevented from reaching Yemen by the U.S.-Saudi coalition, which is increasingly intensifying an already bitter humanitarian crisis.

The UN has already described the situation in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis that no nation has seen in the modern history. 

The external intervention by the West is a major driver in the war, both political and military. This followed after the Islamic Awakening (also referred to in the West as the Arab Spring) put an end to the 30-year dictatorship in the country.
For much of the war on Yemen, the U.S. and UK have maintained an involvement through support for Saudi Arabian military activities. The U.S. Air Force provided inflight refueling for Royal Saudi Air Force warplanes from 2015-2018. 

The U.S. also continues a general defense relationship with Saudi Arabia. The UK has continued to give support to Saudi Arabia for any and all military activities in Yemen. While details are understandably scarce, UK special forces have operated against the Ansarallah forces during much of the eight-year war.

Other investigations have reached similar conclusions. This is necessary for accountability to the people of Yemen for the attacks they have unjustly endured. 

States party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) have a legal obligation to ensure their arms are not used in violation of IHL.

European Union (EU) states have an obligation under the Common Position on Arms Exports not to export where a ‘clear risk’ exists that weapons ‘might be used’ in serious violations of IHL.

The sheer number of attacks in populated areas and directly on homes indicates that the U.S.-Saudi coalition are at best reckless as to the impact of their military actions. 

Over the past year, the international charity group Oxfam has documented over 1,700 attacks that have significantly impacted civilians.

It says there is strong indication that parties to the conflict are not seriously upholding their obligations under IHL and that a clear risk exists that such attacks will occur in the future. 

The Western governments who have sold warplanes, missiles and bombs know well that attacks on civilian targets are considered a war crime under international law.

Oxfam data over the past year alone shows 19 attacks have been committed against medical facilities including hospitals, a clinic and ambulances, which may all constitute serious violations of IHL.

Targeting humanitarian aid is also a serious violation of IHL, and Oxfam notes attacks on an International NGO and three aid warehouses and storage areas are evidence of such crimes. 

This is part of a pattern of attacks on aid facilities and Oxfam staff who returned to a site where it had a water warehouse and a solar panel pumping facility found the charity group facilities had been bombed.

There are a number of accountability mechanisms to control the actions of combatant parties and those supplying them with arms. The most effective one, the UN Group of Eminent Experts, was shut down after lobbying by Saudi Arabia and allies. 

Unlike Ukraine where refugees have been welcomed across Europe, millions of Yemenis have been displaced internally. 

Around 23.7 million Yemenis are in need of assistance, including almost 13 million children. Of those, 7.4 million – some 25% of the population – suffer from malnutrition, including 2 million children, according to Oxfam.

The UN must establish an effective, independent, and widely accepted accountability mechanism that would provide justice for the people of Yemen. 

President Trump removed all restrictions on military assistance to Riyadh once he entered the White House. The current U.S. administration remains a key overall supplier and supporter of the Saudi Arabian military. 

Despite claims by the President Biden administration that it has curtailed direct support to Saudi offensive operations in Yemen, it is continuing to sell arms to the Saudi Kingdom. 

In August 2022 the State Department approved $3bn sale of Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia and $2.2bn to the UAE.

Data examined by Oxfam clearly lays out the human harm of the war on Yemen, its multiple impacts on civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. 

There is a clear pattern of harm to civilians through military actions, amounting to hundreds of incidents every month. Much of that harm is done by the Saudi-U.S. coalition through airstrikes across the country. 

It is clear that a large number of these indiscriminate attacks are instances of war crimes for which an international investigation must be established. 

The absolute impunity for the West seriously undermines its efforts to uphold international law in Ukraine and elsewhere. 

The Western supply of arms to warzones ignores international laws and conventions, putting profit of arms companies ahead of legal obligations.

Source: Tehran Times

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