UN body slams Saudi Ara­bia for deadly Ye­men at­tacks

Tehran Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A United Na­tions body has called on Saudi Ara­bia to im­me­di­ately halt its deadly air raids against civil­ians in war-torn Ye­men and pros­e­cute of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for child ca­su­al­ties due to un­law­ful at­tacks.

The state­ment by the UN Com­mit­tee on the Rights of the Child also said the in­ves­tiga­tive mech­a­nism set up by the Saudi-UAE coali­tion to probe the bomb­ing of a school bus in Ye­men’s Sa’da in Au­gust was not cred­i­ble.

The air at­tack, which killed 51 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 40 chil­dren, sparked wide­spread in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion and calls for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We asked them to put a halt im­me­di­ately to these air strikes,” Clarence Nel­son, panel vice-chair, told re­porters.

“Nearly 20 per­cent of the deaths of civil­ians are chil­dren. So that’s one in five civil­ians killed is a child un­der 18. That’s a lot of chil­dren,” Nel­son said.

The panel of 18 in­de­pen­dent ex­perts made the de­mands in a state­ment on Thurs­day, adding that Ye­meni chil­dren were be­ing killed, maimed and or­phaned by the Saudi-led mil­i­tary coali­tion that has been pound­ing Ye­men for the past three and a half years.

Last week, Saudi Ara­bia told the panel that it was work­ing hard to cor­rect what it de­scribed as mis­taken tar­get­ing by the mil­i­tary al­liance, but the ex­perts have al­ready voiced skep­ti­cism.

The panel voiced con­cern about “the in­ef­fi­ciency of the Joint In­ci­dents Assess­ment Team (JIAT) set up by the coali­tion in 2016 to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of un­law­ful at­tacks by (Saudi Ara­bia) and mem­bers of the coali­tion on chil­dren and fa­cil­i­ties and spa­ces fre­quented by chil­dren.”

Ac­cord­ing to UN fig­ures, at least 1,248 chil­dren have been killed and nearly the same num­ber sus­tained wounds in airstrikes since the on­set of the im­posed war in March 2015.

One of the worst and most tragic cases of tar­get­ing Ye­meni chil­dren oc­curred on Au­gust 9, when Saudi-led war­planes hit a school bus as it drove through a mar­ket in the town of Dhahyan in the north­ern prov­ince of Sa’ada. The death toll in­cluded 40 chil­dren out of 51 peo­ple, while 56 of the 79 wounded were also kids.

The chil­dren were re­turn­ing from a trip or­ga­nized by a re­li­gious sem­i­nary when the bus came un­der at­tack. Im­ages later cir­cu­lated on­line, show­ing pieces of a US­made bomb on the scene.

The hor­rific in­ci­dent sparked out­rage from in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights groups and UN of­fi­cials.

The panel also noted that the Saudi-led war ma­chine had con­ducted at­tacks on civil­ian tar­gets in Ye­men, in­clud­ing homes, med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, schools, farms, wed­dings and mar­kets, in breach of in­ter­na­tional law.

It also called on the Saudi-led coali­tion to re­move its tight ae­rial and naval block­ade on the im­pov­er­ished coun­try, say­ing the siege has de­prived mil­lions of Ye­me­nis of food and other des­per­ately-needed sup­plies, which were used to be im­ported through the vi­tal port of Hu­day­dah.

In Oc­to­ber last year, the UN black­listed Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies for the killing and maim­ing of Ye­meni chil­dren. The world body said at the time that the Saudi-led coali­tion was re­spon­si­ble for 683 child ca­su­al­ties and 38 ver­i­fied at­tacks on schools and hos­pi­tals in 2016 alone.

In June 2016, the UN black­listed the Arab king­dom af­ter con­clud­ing in a re­port that Riyadh was re­spon­si­ble for 60 per­cent of the 785 deaths of chil­dren in the Saudi war on Ye­men in the pre­vi­ous year. A few days later, how­ever, the world body, then led by Ban Ki-moon, an­nounced that Saudi Ara­bia would be taken off the list pend­ing a joint re­view with the king­dom.

At the time, Ban ac­knowl­edged that he was forced to re­move Riyadh from the black­list af­ter the regime and its al­lies threat­ened to cut off fund­ing to many UN pro­grams. The move trig­gered an out­cry from hu­man rights groups around the globe.

In De­cem­ber that year, the U.S. can­celed the sale of pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions to Saudi Ara­bia be­cause of con­cerns about civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. In March 2017, how­ever, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump over­turned the ban.

Saudi Ara­bia and some of its al­lies, in­clud­ing the United Arab Emi­rates, Morocco, and Su­dan, launched the bru­tal war against Ye­men in an at­tempt to re­in­stall Ye­men’s for­mer pres­i­dent Abd Rab­buh Mansur Hadi and crush the coun­try’s pop­u­lar Houthi An­sarul­lah move­ment, which has played a sig­nif­i­cant role, along­side the Ye­meni army, in de­fend­ing the na­tion.

The ag­gres­sion ini­tially con­sisted of a bomb­ing cam­paign but was later cou­pled with a naval block­ade and the de­ploy­ment of ground forces to Ye­men. Some 15,000 Ye­me­nis have so far been killed and thou­sands more in­jured.

More than 2,200 oth­ers have also died of cholera, and the cri­sis has trig­gered what the United Na­tions has de­scribed as the world’s worst hu­man­i­tar­ian disas­ter.

The im­posed war has also taken a heavy toll on the coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture, de­stroy­ing hos­pi­tals, schools, and fac­to­ries. The UN has said that a record 22.2 mil­lion Ye­me­nis are in dire need of food, in­clud­ing 8.4 mil­lion threat­ened by se­vere hunger.

Some Western coun­tries, the United States and Bri­tain in par­tic­u­lar, are also ac­cused of be­ing com­plicit in the on­go­ing ag­gres­sion as they sup­ply the Riyadh regime with ad­vanced weapons and mil­i­tary equip­ment as well as lo­gis­ti­cal and in­tel­li­gence as­sis­tance.

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