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The Saudis and the Need for Accountability for War Crimes in Yemen

The Saudis are launching a new PR offensive [1]:

Saudi Arabia is planning to set up public relations hubs in Europe and Asia as part of a new offensive to counter negative media coverage of the kingdom.

The move comes as Riyadh leads an extraordinary regional embargo of Qatar. It has also faced criticism over its role in a devastating war in Yemen, where it has been accused of bombing civilian targets.

Unfortunately for the victims of aggressive Saudi policies, there has not been as much negative coverage of the kingdom as it deserves. It is typical of blundering interventionist governments to think that the damage they have done to their reputation can be fixed with a public relations campaign, but I doubt it is going to have the desired effect. As long as the Saudis and their allies continue bombing Yemen indiscriminately and blockading the country while millions starve and hundreds of thousands contract preventable diseases, they won’t be able to counter the growing perception that Saudi Arabia is a destructive regional menace.

Human Rights Watch charged [2] the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen with more attacks on civilian targets this week:

Human Rights Watch accused the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen of war crimes on Tuesday, saying its air strikes killed 39 civilians including 26 children in two months.

The rights group said five air strikes hitting four family homes and a grocery store were carried out either deliberately or recklessly, causing indiscriminate loss of civilian lives in violation of the laws of war.

The latest attacks fit into the larger pattern of coalition behavior. Since the war began, coalition planes have bombed civilian targets with regularity, and in many cases clearly targeted them on purpose. The country’s infrastructure, power grid, sanitation systems, and health care facilities have all come under attack from the coalition’s bombing campaign, and these attacks have helped create and exacerbate the famine and cholera crises there. As HRW has reported [3] elsewhere, the members of the coalition evade accountability by hiding behind the coalition label and refusing to acknowledge when a particular government is responsible for an attack:

The coalition currently consists of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan; Qatar withdrew in June. The coalition has conducted thousands of airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015, including scores that appear to violate the laws of war, some of which may be war crimes, yet JIAT and coalition members have provided no or insufficient information about the role that particular countries’ forces are playing in alleged unlawful attacks.

The Saudis and their allies have consistently opposed independent international inquiries into war crimes committed by all sides, because they know very well that an honest inquiry would find many, if not all, of the coalition directly responsible for war crimes. The U.S. and Britain have also helped the coalition governments whitewash their crimes at the U.N. in order to minimize scrutiny of their own role in making these crimes possible. Because all parties to the war have been able to act with total impunity, 57 rights groups have called [4] for an independent investigation into war crimes committed by all sides, and the U.N. human rights chief echoed [5] that demand earlier this week:

“The minimal efforts made toward accountability over the past year are insufficient to respond to the gravity of the continuing and daily violations involved in this conflict,” Zeid said in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The devastation of Yemen and the horrific suffering of its people will have immense and enduring repercussions across the region.”

The Saudi-led war on Yemen has intensified and prolonged the fighting in the country with horrific consequences for the civilian population. The Saudis, their allies, and their patrons shouldn’t be allowed to evade accountability for the destruction they have wrought.

2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "The Saudis and the Need for Accountability for War Crimes in Yemen"

#1 Comment By Andrew On September 12, 2017 @ 11:54 am

I applaud your continued focus on the atrocities in Yemen and our country’s part in creating and sustaining the embargo and bombing campaign. I have contacted my Senators urging them to oppose arms sales to Saudi Arabia and to oppose our involvement in the unnecessary violence. Of course, their responses were weak and vague. It just makes me sick to know we are helping make all this happen. Keep up the good work! As you have rightly pointed out, this is not a Republican/Democrat issue but a moral issue.

#2 Comment By Reed On September 12, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

If somehow there was any doubt that our legislators and military leaders care about anything in the Middle East other than appeasing Saudi oil barons, these horrible crimes committed daily in Yemen have surely stamped out that doubt. Certainly it won’t do any good to try and “reach out to your congressmen” about this – they aren’t bystanders, they aren’t ignorant of the situation, they’re the ones actively perpetrating this crime! All we can do is inform our friends and family of the atrocities of our government. Change never comes from the top down.