On February 28 (after Crescent International goes to press) a team of Yemeni delegates, experts and supporters will go to Geneva, Switzerland, to present their case against the illegal use of cluster bombs and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen. They will provide this information to the United Nations Human Rights Panel. The International League for Yemen War Crimes will represent several rights groups and NGOs in the hope their combined voice, and expertise, will allow for actions to manifest on the ground, and for justice to be served.
In the face of a rising war lobby against Yemen, this poorest country situated in southern Arabia has been devastated by a brutal, protracted, and systematic military campaign launched by its northern neighbour — Saudi Arabia — against both its people and state infrastructures. Yemen remains the forgotten war of our times and in the words of Vanessa Beeley, an independent researcher and anti-war campaigner, “the forgotten siege, and the forgotten genocide.”
With the complicity of the US and its NATO allies, the Saudi-led coalition has bombarded Yemen now for 11 months (on March 26 it will be one year since the Saudi onslaught was launched) with no respite for the civilian population. Like tiny Gaza, Yemen is also blockaded by sea thus nothing can enter the already impoverished country as its civilian population suffers mass starvation. Schools, hospitals, places of worship, historical landmarks, UNESCO heritage sites, civilian infrastructure, and residential areas have been reduced to rubble under the fury of an air campaign that has sought only complete and utter annihilation.
More than 7,500 have been massacred since March 2015 (10,000 according to other estimates). Dr. Riaz Karim, Director of the Mona Relief Organization, an independent NGO operating in northern Yemen, confirmed in January that so far Yemen’s death toll has been largely underestimated. This is a deliberate attempt by the media that takes its directions from the regimes, and by UN agencies in order not to arouse any major concerns. Images of starving children flashed on television screens lead to calls for action to bring an end to such misery.
“Official figures are not representative of realities on the ground… official figures only reflect the will of the Saudi lobby. The UN of course has long bowed to Riyadh in exchange for financial support and other largesse the Kingdom has promised agencies and officials. Yemen is a humanitarian black hole. Over 10,000 people have been killed, notwithstanding the thousands that will die from injuries and other health complications brought on by Saudi aggression. And then of course you have famine and diseases,” said Dr. Karim.
From the use of chemical weapons to the systematic targeting of civilian infrastructure, the killing of innocent, unarmed civilians, and an inhumane humanitarian blockade, Yemen has been thrown in the midst of a violent battle all alone. It has been virtually abandoned by a self-absorbed world community. The world knows about the situation in Yemen only through what the corporate media would allow journalists and so-called experts to tell. While strategically located — it controls access to the Red Sea — Yemen’s independence does not serve the interests of predatory powers. Instead, oil rich Saudi Arabia, as the West’s cash cow and purchaser of billions of dollars worth of weapons, is protected from opprobrium despite committing egregious crimes in Yemen. The people of Yemen thus continue to suffer great injustice through misrepresentation and propaganda.
The victim of violence and atrocities perpetrated by Wahhabi imperialism, Yemen has not been cowed down. Instead its hardened and iron-willed people continue their valiant resistance ready to make every kind of sacrifice for the sake of freedom and dignity. In their valiant struggle, the Yemenis stand virtually alone. National interests rather than principles guide most governments’ policies, hence they overlook Riyadh’s horrific crimes against defenceless people. Yet there are some brave souls who have defied tyranny and are unburdened by fear, motivated only by an imperious sense of responsibility toward those rendered most vulnerable by war.
A grand battlefield, a bleeding scar, Yemen has become our collective shame. More than 10,000 people, the majority non-combatants, have been killed since March 2015, tens of thousands have been injured, and millions have been displaced. But that is not all. Of Yemen’s 26 million souls, more than 22 million have been declared food deficient by the UN and are at serious risk of death from starvation. There are other horrendous statistics: two million children suffer from chronic malnutrition, and hundreds of thousands are unlikely to make it past the end of this month.
The corporate media and most governments present the Saudi-led war on Yemen as a civil war pitting the Houthis against pro-Hadi loyalists. This is sheer propaganda meant to obfuscate the reality. There is no civil war in Yemen; rather, it is a war of aggression launched by the Najdi Bedouins who suffer from the delusion of imperial grandeur, wanting to project their power against an impoverished people to crush their will to remain independent.
Despite billions of dollars in weapons and other instruments of death and destruction, the Saudis have not been able to cow down the people of Yemen, notwithstanding a handful of Saudi puppets in the country. This historic land has produced many great sons and daughters who are willing to defend their territory and honour. Similarly, Yemen has many friends who are willing to stand up for truth and justice and expose the self-serving propaganda of predatory powers.
While their situation may appear hopeless given the great disparities in weapons and wealth, and compounded by the world’s silence, the people of Yemen have vowed to resist. They are confident in the belief that the people’s collective voice and struggle will overcome the fury of war even if certain powers have sold themselves to the devil for a fistful of dollars.
War crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Yemen — such positions and statements are no longer allegations, but documented facts. According to the International Criminal Court, “crimes against humanity” include any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment; torture; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; persecution against an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds; enforced disappearance of persons; the crime of apartheid; other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.
In January (2016) a panel of UN experts published a report that established beyond any doubt that harrowing abuses had been carried out against civilians as part of a systematic effort to inflict harm. The panel of experts documented 119 coalition sorties “relating to violations of international humanitarian law” and reported, “…many attacks involved multiple air strikes on multiple civilian objects.”
The International League for Yemen War Crimes is determined to transform such admissions into action by demanding that justice be served. The United Nations, ever the instrument of predatory powers, has defiled the very principles it was set up to supposedly defend, promote, and abide by. When an international body is reduced to serving the interests of aggressive powers, justice will not be served.
But the people of Yemen will not be silenced; they and their friends are demanding justice. Collectively, they can force even the criminals to listen!
The International League calls for an end to Yemen’s suffering. “This sad state of affair needs to end here, and now! The UN must fulfill its purpose! Join us in our efforts,” said Ms. Kim Sharif of the League. “Such words as democracy, freedom, sovereignty, and self-governance remain mirages without accountability and justice. Let’s not allow for the darkness to reclaim the ground we once swore to conquer against its agents,” she added.
Under the following social media banner: #StandUp4JusticeInYemen, a campaign will run throughout February and March, raising awareness on the war against Yemen.