Geneva (GPA) – Geopolitics Alert editor Randi Nord participated in two side panel events at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 39th session in Geneva Switzerland last week. The second panel demanded accountability for war crimes committed against civilians in Yemen — particularly due to the blockade.
Coverage of the first panel, sponsored by Insan Organization can be found here. The second panel, sponsored by Iraqi Development Organization and Arabian Rights Watch Association (ARWA), focused on critiquing the UN report from the Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts (otherwise known as the GEE report).
The panelists highlighted the fact that the GEE report failed to hold the coalition accountable for civilian deaths (particularly women and children) due to the US-enforced and Saudi-imposed land, sea, and air blockade.
Mohammed Alwazir, a lawyer and the legal director of ARWA, pointed out that while airstrikes are the main direct cause of civilian casualties when compared to ground fighting, the blockade indirectly causes the majority of civilian deaths. This includes 247,000 children deaths from preventable malnutrition-related causes that could have been treated if it weren’t for the blockade on food, medicine, and fuel necessary to operate healthcare facilities.
Alwazir questioned the legitimacy of the war pointing out that it is an international conflict led by an international coalition rather than a non-international conflict. He said the Human Rights Council should recommend that the Security Council transfer this case to the International Criminal Court or establish an international commission of inquiry which has yet to happen.
Abdulsalam Al-Dhahebi, a Sweden-based Yemeni activist with Insan Organization, called for the Human Rights Council to establish accountability measures to hold the coalition accountable for these heinous crimes against civilians in Yemen.
Read more about the US-backed war in Yemen:
The transcript of Randi Nord’s portion in full:
“For over three years, the US-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has carried out a policy that directly attacks the very existence of innocent women and children on several fronts without any military objective.
According to the Legal Center for Rights and Development, over two thousand women and three thousand children have been killed from airstrikes alone with several thousand more injured. It is a fact that airstrikes create the majority of civilian casualties when compared to ground fighting. However, the blockade severely outweighs all casualty statistics and has thus far killed 247 thousand children.
This report from Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen came just days after an airstrike on a school bus in Yemen killed dozens of innocent children — which the Saudi coalition initially defended as a legitimate military action.
The recent GEE report clearly states that the United States provides military support for the Saudi-led coalition. It also acknowledges that the coalition deliberately targeted a funeral hall in 2016 resulting in the deaths of at least 24 children. This is just one of several attacks presented in the report with clear-cut affirmation of crimes against civilians — specifically, women and children.
The GEE report includes an attack from April of this year on a wedding in Hajjah that killed eight children and left at least one boy orphaned begging to stay by his father’s lifeless body. The raids in this particular attack specifically targeted the bride’s tent as people gathered to prepare for the event.
The report states that dozens of air attacks by the US-backed Saudi-led coalition on public gathering places and residential areas resulted in the death of countless children. If I wanted to speak on every civilian attack here today, it would take hours. As a journalist who has been reporting these crimes on my own website for years, it disgusts me that I have to open the calculator on my computer to tally the number of dead civilians from multiple attacks every few days.
I follow this conflict closely and still have a hard time keeping the various market, wedding, funeral, and refugee camp attacks straight due to the sheer number, frequency, and intensity.
The report states that it is investigating dozens of the countless airstrikes on civilian areas where children are present. The report presents clear evidence of who is responsible for these mass killings of civilians.
The report acknowledges that these attacks were carried out without any military objective in the vicinity using precision-guided missiles. This proves the missiles reached their intended targets of women and children. It also touches on the subject of “double-tap” airstrikes which involves coalition warplanes circling back around to double down on these attacks striking ambulance crews and rescuers.
With this evidence, why is no one held accountable for attacks that occurred two years ago? Why have weapons, training, refueling, and logistical support continued to the Saudi-led coalition?
The illegal blockade threatens the lives of women and children. This has created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world by using famine and disease as a weapon of war. Cholera affects roughly one million people in Yemen with children under the age of 15 constituting 41 percent of suspected cases and 25 percent of fatalities. Children and pregnant women are most at-risk. About 2.8 million people require acute malnutrition treatment which includes 1.8 million children and over 1 million pregnant or lactating women.
OCHA goes on to state in its recent report that “[t]he inability to re-supply life-saving maternal medicines and supplies will threaten the lives of 400,000 pregnant women and their newborns, including 53,000 pregnant women who are likely to develop complications during childbirth. A child is dying every ten minutes amounting to over 63,000 children deaths in 2016 alone due to preventable causes according to UNICEF.
The Ministry of Human Rights puts the number at 247,000 civilian deaths – mostly children – because of preventable causes.
The report acknowledges that this blockade significantly impacts civilians and, again, lacks a clear military objective. It also acknowledges that the Saudi-led coalition systemically hinders the flow of aid into Yemen despite the fact that UN inspections have never found a single instance of weapons concealed in cargo ships.
The effects of this war will be felt by Yemeni children for generations due to malnourishment, disease, and carpet bombing. Targeting spaces where children are most likely to be present, such as in the home or at school, has resulted in about 4.5 million children not attending school according to OCHA. More than 1,690 schools are currently unfit for use due to conflict-related damage. About 2.3 million children currently need access to education.
Yemen’s institutions that women and children rely on have been destroyed — who will pay Yemen’s reparations? Who will be held responsible for the reconstruction of schools and hospitals?
To top it off, women, children, and even grown men face rape as a weapon of war — particularly from forces under Emirate command. The OCHA report admits that rape and sexual violence has proliferated — occurring “every few nights” — since the war began and survivors later become revictimized or silenced. However, the report also states that these victims are without recourse.
There are talks of creating an independent investigation, but at this point, the report lacks any teeth. Will the Saudi coalition continue to investigate its own crimes?
How will women and children receive food and access to lifesaving medicine? What mechanisms will safeguard women and children facing direct violence at this very moment? Yemen does not need discussions and sympathy. Yemen needs action now.”
Video courtesy Al-Masirah.
Also published on Medium.