Famine ‘threatens hundreds of thousands’ in Somalia

Famine ‘threatens hundreds of thousands’ in Somalia

Nicholas Kay, the former special representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia
Nicholas Kay, the former special representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia

The United Nations (UN)’s former special representative for Somalia has warned of the looming threat of famine in the Horn of Africa country, calling for immediate action to stop a potential humanitarian disaster.

British diplomat Nicholas Kay, who until recently served as the UN’s envoy for Somalia, said on Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia might die or be on the verge of dying in May this year if immediate action was not taken to address the threat of famine in the African country.

Speaking at a briefing of a group of journalists, Kay warned that in order to prevent the humanitarian disaster “action is needed immediately.”

He said a conference was scheduled in London for May to address the dire situation in Somalia but warned that it might be too late to discuss action then.

“If by the time the conference in May happens we are [still] having to sound the alarm and discuss the famine issue, that is going to be too late,” he said. “There may be hundreds of thousands of people dead or about to die.”

According to the UN humanitarian office, five million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.

The UN’s humanitarian appeal for Somalia for 2017 is 864 million dollars. The money is needed to provide assistance to 3.9 million people, but additional funds are required to cope with the worsening situation, and last month, the UN World Food Program launched a 26-million-dollar plan to respond to the drought there.


This image shows a woman and her child walking by a flock of dead goats near Dhahar in Puntland, Somalia, on December 15, 2016. (By AFP)

“Nearly three million people in Somalia face crisis and emergency acute food insecurity,” the Famine Early Warning Systems Network warned earlier this month.

Globally, the famine network said, the need for emergency food assistance is “unprecedented” — with famine also possible in South Sudan and Yemen and likely in inaccessible areas of Nigeria’s northeast.

Yemen has been under Saudi military attacks since March 2015, and Nigeria has been beleaguered by militancy.

Reporting from Cuba: The absence of right…wing politics

by Ramin Mazaheri

It is with great regret that I have to leave Havana after 1 month of special-assignment reporting for Press TV in order to return to Paris.

That may surprise a lot of people, but think of what type of work I am returning to: Stories about unabashed capitalism, chauvinistic neo-imperialism, anti-Muslim xenophobia and the upcoming presidential contest in which the only 2 serious contenders are a right-wing candidate and the far-right National Front.

Why is reporting in France (leftist reporting) considered easy? I cannot count the number of times I have been tear-gassed in the last year while covering on France’s anti-government protests, due to ineffective austerity policies.

Let’s not forget that France is still (14 months now) a police state of emergency, one step short of marital law. The government’s power grab due to just 2 terror attacks continues to undermine France’s claim of democracy (the Nice tragedy was a crazed lone wolf and not organized by any terror group).

And yet it was Cuba which was described as “militarist”, “tyrannical” and “dictatorial” across the West following the recent death of Fidel Castro.

Well, working in Cuba has been totally free of the reactionary violence which is a daily occurrence in France. It has been a celebration of leftist resistance, and the honoring of amazing advances in the face of the genocidal US-orchestrated international Blockade.

I was quite happy to spend 1 month of my life to defend the modern democratic will of the Cuban people and thus the ongoing Cuban Revolution. About all I am looking forward to in France is the bread.

Cuban bread – the type the average person eats and which I regularly bought at local, state-run panaderías – is an offense to bread everywhere. Cubans rightly pointed out that it was the best they can do when the Blockade makes things like oil, butter and salt scarce. Sure, a piece of the subsidized “staff of life” costs just one-fourth of one US penny, and it did keep me from hunger many nights, but I will remember it only as the bitter taste of omnipresent US imperialism, which tastes bad even when dipped in evaporated milk.

In France I defend more than just the culinary endowments of Western Europe’s geographical breadbasket, I defend the democratic will of the people (when France isn’t being reactionary and racist). However, I am part of a very small minority, both socially and as a journalist. In Cuba, I am not, and it has been wonderful.

Why is it like this? Why is France so rich and yet so troubled? Why do I have such trouble finding positive stories there? I have an idea:

In Cuba a far-right simply does not exist – racism, xenophobia and such reactionary stupidities are banned. If you call that “tyranny”, all I can say is that I side with the Cubans in refusing to defend to the death your right to spread inequality, hate and regression.

And what I cannot stress enough is the enormous effect the absence of a right-wing clearly has on the hearts, minds and daily bearing of the Cuban people.

You cannot simply chalk up to the weather the yawning difference between the open-hearted Cubans and the cold, unfriendly, excessively forma and pessimistic French. Surely it is more due to the corrosive cultural effect of tolerating right-wing thought.

Just imagine for yourself what your Western nation would be like if there was no far-right influence? If the goals of racial solidarity and economic equality simply could not be questioned, and had to be promoted?

That’s what Cuban culture has that the West does not, and such cultural gold is both beyond measure and incredibly rare anywhere in 2017.

It clearly gives many French the jollies to insult, denigrate and promote competitiveness, but I assume this is why the silent majority is nauseated, depressed and reportedly adulterous.

But right-wing thought is more than just tolerated across the West, it is avidly promoted by both government and media. From chauvinistic nationalism to capitalist neoliberal dogma which has no factual grounding in reality to “on what moral ground could you possibly claim” humanitarian interventionism – with such ideological tent poles, how can any Western nation claim to be more “modern” or “humanistic” than Cuba?

And yet, the total war against leftist thought means that it’s the French who are considered “modern” and “advanced”. Paris is city full of rich old people who can afford to live in the past – Havana, so close to the belligerent United States, cannot afford such illusions.

People said I could not “report from Cuba”

The idea was something like that I would be prohibited, spied on, redacted and thought-controlled.

Nothing like that happened remotely. It was quite simple, and here is how you do it: You work with the government, not against it.

You don’t sneak into the country on a tourist visa and do a halfway job – you get a formal journalist visa and follow their laws. You provide the government with a list of story ideas and be upfront about what type of journalism you want to do. You meet with them a few times. You talk with them as equals. You remind them that they know more about their own society than you do, and welcome their ideas. You act like what you are – a guest, and not some zealot missionary there to spread light and truth amid darkness and lies.

This is all to show the government that…you are not one of the very many advocating the destruction of their society and culture.

If you cannot understand why Cuba would be vigilant in this respect, you are not smart enough to be permitted to report from here and I hope your visa request is denied!

If you say “such governmental oversight proves the press is not free”, I encourage you do just a bit of research to find out how Iran’s Press TV, to give one example, has been banned, hounded and subverted in places like France, the UK and the US.

There is a crucial difference here: I don’t ever recall Cuba claiming to be a beacon of free press. I have heard the same false claims from the three Western countries just mentioned.

Bottom line: The Cuban Center for International Press was only helpful in my work, and never once did they do anything which I considered remotely infringing on my press freedom.

They permitted me access wherever I wanted to go, helped find me appropriate analysts, and if I had more time here they would have been even more help. They did not redact anything, nor did they have the chance to as they never even asked to see my final products – my work was published without any oversight from the Cuban government whatsoever.

What did I learn from 1 month reporting in Cuba?

If you only read one paragraph, read this:

I talked to dozens of people here, maybe over 100, and from all ages and backgrounds: What seems rock-solid to me is that Cuba is not changing, post-Fidel. He gave up power 9 years ago anyway, so there is no huge sea change due to his death, just a profound sadness for a national hero. I repeat – if you think Cuba is an island adrift, come visit and talk to the people.

Let’s make one key idea clear: The Cuban Revolution is clearly supported en masse.

Their wrong hypothesis is: That the Cuban Revolution was the work of just one exceptional man, Fidel, instead of the combined, sustained efforts of millions of people.

My hypothesis: Not one but two generations have grown up under a total Blockade, so how could they not support the Revolution? Who could go without so long under the gun of a blockade, being deprived of so many basic opportunities, and not be converted? They have no illusions here that the US can or should be trusted; they are committed to independence, anti-imperialism and solidarity with and for all.

This is the main point I take away from Cuba: The Cuban Blockade is an absolute crime against this noble, modern culture.

If you had to rank it, you could place slightly behind the Nazi genocide against Jews, and the Israeli genocide against Palestinians. But the Cubans justifiably call the blockade “The longest genocide in history”. Are not all three the attempt to kill an entire people and destroy an entire culture? This is exactly what is going against Cuba.

Let’s dispense with another idea: The Cuban government/Communist Party also has widespread support because Cuba has been able to do so much despite such total aggression.

Gaping tourists appear slightly more idiotic in Cuba than elsewhere, because the lack of infrastructure is a surprise. This is a poor country, and that is obvious everywhere.

This country is so impoverished that there should be widespread famine – there isn’t, as the people appear very robust. There should be widespread begging in Havana – there is literally none, save one or two drunks. They should be illiterate and jobless and sick – they aren’t.

The lack of these things amid such poverty perfectly explains why Communist Party has justifiably earned the support of the people.

And I could go on here about how Cuba’s system is, in fact, democratic, with popular votes, easy access to candidature, bans on election campaigning, mechanisms for recall, etc., but this is not a dissection of Cuba’s system of communist democracy, which is not at all a contradiction. It is, however, all there in black and white and in the law for those who want to learn more about it.

Anyway, we need space to discuss the fact that one need not even confuse the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban government: to do so is an attempt to construct a strawman argument, and this is precisely what anti-Cuban or anti-Castro forces do (and all they do).

Recall that I am coming from a place where the president has a 4% approval rating, and where his policies are so unpopular, so undemocratic, that he cannot even stand for re-election. This only confirms my thesis that nobody actually likes their government anywhere in the world and that complaining about any and every government is as natural a pastime as talking about the weather.

But despite all the people who hate Donald Trump, does anyone in the US really push for overturning the American Revolution of 1776? Of course not – it is the same here: You can be pro-revolution and anti-government without contradiction, if you insist.

If you are anti-Cuban government as well as anti-Cuban Revolution…you are just a reactionary fascist. The Cuban Revolution, undoubtedly, restored power, land and life to the people. It ended tyranny and foreign domination.

Now, if you do not realize that you should support the Cuban people’s popular choice of government in order to also give much-needed support their Revolution…well, then you are just an average Western fake leftist.

Yes, nobody here every told me that the Cuban government was the most effective, efficient group of men and women who levied taxes and monopolized the use of force, but you’ll never hear that anywhere. If you are looking for such “insights”, I suggest tuning into Washington-funded propaganda outlet Radio and TV Marti.

A government working amid the US-led Blockade genocide

Just as Sartre said that to understand communism must one first embrace its ideals, to truly understand the Cuban government (and by extension Cuban culture) one must first embrace the idea that they have provided food, health, education and security despite the orchestration of a trans-national blockade for nearly 60 years.

And what is the Blockade? Firstly, it is not what the US claims it is – simply a bilateral “embargo”. The US ruthlessly persecutes any nation which tries to do business or even aid Cuba.

It should be stunning to find out that any ship which docks in Cuba cannot dock in the US for 6 months. Cuba is an island nation, after all, hugely reliant on maritime shipping. But how many shipping companies can afford to bypass the world’s largest market just 100 kilometers away in order to work with Cuba?

The Blockade bans any 3rd party from importing products with Cuban sugar or nickel, their only natural resource. The Blockade bans half of all new, world-class drugs, causing innumerable deaths.

Cuba is locked out of the international banking system, crippling their ability to buy and sell goods.

The US even obstructs charitable donations!

This is total war against Cuba, given that invasion already failed at the Bay of Pigs.

The Cuban government deserves an incredible amount of accolades for providing the equal standard of living that they currently have.

Perhaps I am especially sensitive to all this as I am an Iranian citizen – I thought the US sanctions on our country were bad, but Cuba is another level. Iran benefits from increased distance from the US, 6 times more people, and plenty of oil, but innumerable Iranians have died due to the same lack of medication, modern technology and other aggressions against our popular, democratic revolution.

Iran’s development has skyrocketed since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, but even if you could import 10,000 Macintosh computers to Cuba you would find very few buyers because there is simply no money on the island.

It’s not just Cuban cars which are stuck in a time warp: Seemingly everything here dates from 1959, and that’s the new stuff!

That’s what happens after 6 decades of being unable to sell goods; 6 decades of having foreign investors scared off by the United States.

This is what the Communist Party has been up against for so intolerably long, and yet they still lead the hemisphere in many respects.

Obama apologists will point to Cuba as a success – don’t believe it

Opening an embassy was not gutting the Blockade, which he could have via executive order. Full stop. Obama apologists lose, alongside 11 million innocent Cubans. Please stop trying to defend the indefensible.

He also waited too long to even try – less than $400 million in goods have been exported to Cuba since 2014 – and now there are no “economic realities on the ground” which could prevent Trump from reversing everything, as he has promised.

Yeah I’m sure Cuba did go slow, but the dangerous of immediate US economic domination should be obvious. They also largely insist on productive joint ventures, not typical capitalist exploitation.

Exports to Cuba (mostly food) have actually fallen since restrictions were “eased”, and yet less food for Cuba is somehow a success?

Obama had a ton of executive power at his disposal and his main contribution will be to simply reopen communication, but there should be no doubt that he also strengthened the genocide.Even after restoring relations in 2014 his administration levied billions in fines against French and German companies for “blockade violations”.

The message was clear: there is no thaw in relations, and Cuba stays under our thumb.

Obama did not end subversive US programs, bans on imports and exports, a little torture chamber called Guantanamo on Cuban soil which he promised to close and didn’t – all could have been ended by executive order.

At the 11th hour Obama has just repealed the preferential “wet foot/dry foot” immigration policy. Kudos, better late than never. But by waiting so long he added to the US “brain drain” of Cuba for 7 years, 11 months and 51 weeks – he squeezed the most he could out them, I guess.

Try as his apologists might, Obama cannot be transformed into a leftist, because any clear-eyed analysis shows he’s not even a centrist. As is typical of his entire presidency he only represented a change in form and color, not a change in US tactics.

I was able to console Cubans with, “Iranians say the same thing”: They don’t report any changes following a so-called “historic thaw in relations”.

Getting started is always the most difficult, but going from 0 to 1 on a scale of 10 is not a major advance nor worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

In fact Obama just added 10 more years of sanctions against Iran, and he did it in his typical “form over substance” method: He didn’t sign the bill, but he allowed it to pass. This is the same thing but now he has plausible deniability.

Now his apologists can say that the sanctions are only the result of an “obstinate Congress”. It’s best to remember that it was assumed he would sign the bill, but this change of tactic was a surprise.

One step forward, 11 steps back, look good doing it, stress racial/identity politics – peaked on election night 2008, no doubt. No wonder many in Cuba support Trump, even though the Donald really only talked tough against Iran and Cuba.

I had so many stories left to do!

3,500 Cubans killed by Miami-based terrorists and not 1 American by Cuban revolutionaries; the occupation of Guantanamo Bay (the only far-right in Cuba, LOL); who will the US seek to assassinate now that Fidel has passed from natural causes; Raul is stepping down next year after two 5-year terms, what’s his legacy; who is Miguel Diaz-Canal, the 55-year old engineer tipped to become the new Communist Party leader; and much more!

But I am glad to have made my small reports. It is too bad that capitalism and imperialist forces dominate the West so thoroughly that pro-Cuban reports – i.e. reporting what the majority of Cuban people believe – are such an outlier in the English language; it’s too bad that so many English-language journalists are so heavily-indoctrinated that they look askance at any report which isn’t “balancing” the Blockade with accusations of tyranny and dictatorship.

I doubt I have made many friends in the Little Havana area of Miami – that’s no problem, because I don’t expect a warm reception in the Iranian-exile dominated area of Beverly Hills, either.

But enough about me and more about Cuba!

And this where Cuba deserves some criticism: They are failing terribly in the information war.

They have not realized that Cuba needs an international media presence like Iran’s Press TV, Venezuela’s TeleSUR and Russia’s RT/Sputnik.

In a place where technological development has been so forcibly retarded, I hypothesize that Cuba simply doesn’t realize that the Internet means that Cuba can finally broadcast their own story to the world; no longer is the world dominated by AP, Reuters and the New York Times.

Yes, such a media costs money, and Cuba is rightly focused on providing for the basic needs of their own people, but I know the world’s leftists are starving for information about Cuba, that Cuba has so many amazing stories to tell and that Cuba has so many fascinating programs to reveal.

Cuba is certainly the leftist leader of the Western Hemisphere – their history of resistance, geographic location and modern culture also makes them a global leftist leader. They need an international media which reflects that, for the good of international leftism. Granma is, after all, just 8 pages long.

Cuba is undoubtedly has a third-world economy – and that’s an unforgiveable crime created by the Blockade – but it is undoubtedly a first-world culture.

I leave Havana convinced that post-Fidel Cuba will not be regressing, and will remain an amazing place for so many of the right leftist reasons.

*****

One final note of interest I’d like to include:

As the longtime correspondent of Iran’s Press TV in France I take a special interest in Muslims – if I don’t cover the bottom of France’s social pyramid, who will? There are only 10,000 Muslims in Cuba, but I visited Havana’s main mosque and not one person said they had ever encountered governmental or even societal discrimination due to their religious belief. One person said he converted 13 years ago and had never heard any Muslim make such a complaint.

This is the exact opposite of what Muslims report in France, as well as much of supposedly “tolerant” Europe.

Of course, the idea that Cuba is anti-religion has been outdated for 2 decades – John Paul II was here in 1998. It’s only promoted by establishment media because it’s another form of anti-Communist propaganda.

Banning religion has clearly not been a long-term success for Communism anywhere, and Cuba recognized that and changed.

Yes, some hugely annoying (and US-based) evangelistic groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned, but perhaps they should consider not knocking on everyone’s door to aggressively convert people. When I lived in Gary, Indiana, they disturbed my Saturday morning too many times to count.

I’m not condoning religious oppression and I didn’t care to dig that deep into it, but I was reminded that seemingly every society has some religion that gets oppressed: Scientologists are harassed in Germany (even though I doubt many even know what its tenets are – I don’t), the US killed 82 Seventh-Day Adventists at Waco, Texas, Muslims are attacked in Burma, Jews are targeted for attacks in France, and the list goes on.

The biggest religion in Cuba may be Santeria – a distinctly Cuban-African mix. I visited the homes of White/Aboriginal people who put up elaborate altars to this West African religion, with pictures of Jesus and some Catholic saints added in. It’s pretty telling about the open-mindedness of Cuban culture that non-Blacks have widely embraced a religion which started among the Yoruba of today’s Nigeria.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.

Yemeni Villagers Dying of Starvation

[ Ed. note – It would appear that all the horrible war crimes US officials and the mainstream media have been alleging against Russia and the Syrian government are in reality being perpetrated by the Saudis–and, from the looks of it, maybe even far worse. Where’s Obama? Where’s John Kerry? Where are all the neocons who have been theatrically voicing their anguish over the people of Aleppo? How come we’re not hearing from them on the horrible situation in this Yemeni town? How come the Saudis are allowed to fire upon Yemeni fishermen when they try to take their boats to sea to catch fish, and Samantha Power has nothing to say about it at the UN? I guess, come to think of it, for the same reason she doesn’t say anything when Israelis fire upon Gaza fishermen. ]

***

No Food, No Medicine, No money: Yemeni Town Faces Mass Death by Starvation

RT
Nearly 19 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN, but the worst of the civilian impact of the two-year civil war in the country has fallen on the coastal fishing area around the Red Sea coastal district of Tuhayat.

As RT’s Arabic-language crew visited the area, they witnessed scenes of chaos – as locals scrambled to gain food – and quiet desperation, with many residents swollen with hunger, waiting for outside help, or resigned to their fate.

Continued here

Stop the Genocide in Yemen

As Yemen continues to be ravaged by war, its people on the verge of mass starvation, social media users are urging the world to take notice and help the Yemenis in their silent plight.

Today beginning of 2017
Saudi airstrikes attacked their home in Marib
Kill 5 people ☝👇

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Yesterday this old woman lost 5 sons by Saudi air strike
Also
Today old man lost 6 members of his family

Just imagine if it were you, searching for your children after an airstrike

The conflict escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition began conducting airstrikes with the assistance of the US and UK on behalf of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who had fled following an uprising of Houthi rebels.

01/01/2017 :
Some of the victims of the US_Saudi massacre.
5 murdered and others wounded.

 

The operation has devastated the country and its people. In August 2016, the UN estimated that more than 10,000 people had died.

Yemen is on the brink of famine as the coalition’s blockade has cut off supplies and led to food prices skyrocketing. Yemen usually imports 90 percent of its food.

 

According to UNICE

F, a child dies in Yemen every 10 minutes. The UN reports more than 2.2 million children are malnourished, with close to half a million suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition, a 200 percent increase on 2014 levels.

Yemenis have seen the effects of airstrikes on hospitals and health clinics, leaving many suffering from preventable illnesses.

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

.@monarelief and .@AKF_Social distributing now food aid for the forth day in Hodeidah to most needy ppl there. @monareliefye

Yemenis have seen the effects of airstrikes on hospitals and health clinics, leaving many suffering from preventable illnesses.

READ MORE: Yemenis ‘slowly starving’ to death as world ‘turns blind eye’ – aid charity

Children have been prevented from attending school, with UNICEF reporting at least 350,000 have had access to education blocked.

At least 350k children in have been unable to go to school as a result of the going conflict. @UNICEF_Yemen

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

The latest massacre in the mass extermination war against , which is still absent from the Western media

The powerful images shared across social media convey the horrifying reality for the people of Yemen, forcing the world to see the devastation and suffering caused by an onslaught of bombings.

Amidst the disturbing tweets are calls for the US and UK to take responsibility for their role in the conflict.

Yemen is proving beyond any doubt the hypocrisy of the west. They remain in support of Saudi despite continual WarCrimes

The good the bad & the ugly in 2016 still steadfast.
UK & USA still supply arms to Saudi. still in UNHRC

Saudi Arabia and its coalition of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan have been accused of war crimes in Yemen, and social media activists are calling on politicians such as UK Prime Minister Theresa May, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN to put an end to the attacks.

Children have been prevented from attending school, with UNICEF reporting at least 350,000 have had access to education blocked.

The powerful images shared across social media convey the horrifying reality for the people of Yemen, forcing the world to see the devastation and suffering caused by an onslaught of bombings.

Amidst the disturbing tweets are calls for the US and UK to take responsibility for their role in the conflict.

Saudi Arabia and its coalition of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan have been accused of war crimes in Yemen, and social media activists are calling on politicians such as UK Prime Minister Theresa May, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN to put an end to the attacks.

The UK and the US have come under fire from human rights organizations for their role in the conflict. The US approved $20 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2015 alone, while the UK has provided training and $4.1 billion in arms during the first year of the conflict.

In January 2015, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told journalists in London, “We have British officials and American officials and officials from other countries in our command and control center. They know what the target list is and they have a sense of what it is that we are doing and what we are not doing.”

Source

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Israel’s never-ending crimes: It’s not just settlements

source

By Stanley L Cohen

Israel has not just committed unspeakable acts of genocide but done so with absolute transparency.

Last week, the world stood fixated at a largely symbolic gesture by the United Nations in which it found the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank of Palestine to be illegal. Or did it?

Although the UN Security Council, with rare uniformity, chastised Israel for flouting the law of occupation, the resolution, crafted with ambiguous lawyerly precision, left experienced thinkers on the subject debating just what it means.

In its most ambitious read, some would argue it appears that the decree concerned the occupation as a whole, and swept within its prohibitive reach all settlement activity since 1967 when Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Arab-Palestinian control.

Others view its advisory language as helpful through its continued embrace of the time-tired two-state solution and its apparent call for a return to the status quo ante of some 15 years ago when illegal settlements had not as yet swallowed much more than 60 percent of the West Bank.

In its least appealing landscape painting, it would appear that the resolution seemingly bestows upon already completed settlements de facto legitimacy and addresses only that part of the building glut currently under way or planned for tomorrows yet to come.

To make matters worse, despite its gratuitous dicta, the resolution remains very much a toothless declaration without any enforcement mechanism whatsoever – essentially relying upon a sudden burst of Israeli conscience to reverse a steady march of indifference to international law that has led Israel’s way since the very first day it was manufactured from stolen land in Palestine.

Defiant Netanyahu

Predictable in immediacy and urgency, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his weekly tantrum, accusing the world of a dark conspiracy organised by the soon to be ex-President of the United States, Barack Obama, who on his way out of the door after years of obsequious obedience to Israeli will, has suddenly discovered that it’s OK to say no … well … maybe … or perhaps, to its glaring intransigence.

But then again, it’s kind of hard to take seriously “pressure” exerted by a country that has just enriched Israel’s military coffers and occupation to the tune of $38bn.

Not satisfied with the echo of his own vitriol, Netanyahu was just beginning. Next, he singled out Senegal – one of the most impoverished countries in the world and a mover of the resolution – for economic reprisal. Its offence is having the temerity to believe in the rule of law and being housed in the international building with flags of 193 nations and the State of Palestine that sits overlooking the East River of New York City.

Netanyahu told the world just what he thinks of the UN and its resolution when he announced plans to proceed with the building of thousands of new housing units in Jerusalem in particular.

“Israel will not turn its other cheek,” Netanyahu proclaimed as he went on to prophesy a “plan of action” against the UN directly. Not long thereafter he suspended working ties with the UK, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand, those countries that supported the resolution.

Like a dark lord

Netanyahu should quit while he’s ahead, but he just can’t. There is no incentive. Like the hundreds of earlier resolutions critical of Israeli policies, as worded, the most recent condemnation by the UN can do little more than cry out for justice in the night from a state built from the marrow of genocide.

I get “bombast”, “brash” and, at times, even “bully”. However, it’s the two-legged beasts that feed on the innocent I do not. Netanyahu is very much that kind of beast – an ogre who lives in a world surrounded by dark, deadly thoughts. With delusion his ally, dishonesty his friend and death his messenger, he thumbs his nose at the world as his reign of state terror consumes more and more civilian victims guilty of no offence other than breathing the air that surrounds them and seeking a free life.

When the history of our times is written, an honest accounting will no doubt add Netanyahu’s wicked shadow – and that of his predecessors – to the list of fiends that have seen the world as little more than a playground within which to use their toys of death and despair – always, of course, for the right reasons and always, of course, against the meek and defenceless among us.

The sum total of Israel’s efforts these past 68 years is nothing short of the deliberate infliction upon Palestinians, as a cognizable group, conditions of life and death calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part.

In the world of Joseph Stalin, induced famine was the prime weapon of choice, though mass execution and exile helped him dispose of tens of millions he viewed as “enemies of the people”.

To Henry Kissinger, the world, particularly Indochina, was very much a small chess game. Civilians were mere pawns ripe for sacrifice through hi-tech weaponry, including biological and chemical warfare, to enforce his worldview at any cost. Millions lost their lives to his cerebral game board.

To Pol Pot, struggle was little more than purification, erasing through starvation, overwork and execution a quarter of his people whose sole crime was to see life through a prism that collided with his own – no matter how soft their view or backward his sight.

In Rwanda up to half a million women were sexually assaulted, mutilated or murdered, along with an equal number of male Tutsis, as enemy agents of the Hutu state – machetes and rape induced Aids to the plentiful weapons of preference.

Slow-motion genocide

These are but a few of the extremes of genocide, those rare cases we are told noted mostly for mass murder, systemic rape or group starvation – the worst of the worst. Yet, genocide does not demand of us an immediate mountain of bodies or an explosive rage of terror for international law to take hold.

As it turns out, in what increasingly seems to be more than mere passing coincidence, the legal definition of “genocide” enacted by the UN General Assembly was born in 1948, the very same year as Israel – which has since gone on to become both expert at its application and legendary in its denial.

In relevant part, under the applicable Convention, genocide means “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; or (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. Each and every one of these types of genocide has been perpetrated by Israel, seemingly with almost proud boast, and no accountability, for almost 70 unbroken years.

One need not rest upon obtuse historical footnotes to find abundant, indeed systemic, acts of extermination carried out by Israel since 1948 against Palestinians – very much a cognizable “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” as those terms are contemplated and commonly understood and applied under international law.

Beginning with its mass expulsion, rape and murder at the onset of the Nakba (the Catastrophe) Israel has devoted itself to 68 years of non-stop genocide coming up for air only periodically to retool or to change the nature of its weaponry of choice.

What started out with the expulsion, at gunpoint, of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homeland set in motion a refugee stampede that has grown to more than seven million displaced and stateless people, providing the world more than a disturbing glimpse of what was to come decades later in Syria.

Never-ending violence

Over the years, Israel has found diverse ways to kill more than 400,000 Palestinian civilians and injure or cripple two to three times as many, including tens of thousands of women and children. Whether by tank fire, rockets, or cluster or phosphorus bombs, it has given new meaning to the evil of willful group slaughter.

In its thirst to ethnically cleanse all of Palestine of its remaining inhabitants, it has made use of starvation, in violation of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as a method of war targeting foodstuffs, crops and livestock throughout the occupied territories.

In particular, it has destroyed more than a million olive trees which not only serve as an essential mainstay of Palestinian culture but, along with hundreds of thousands of razed fruit trees, constitute key products of a Palestinian national economy largely in various states of ruin.

In Gaza, Israel has targeted hospitals, schools, daycare centres, multi-storey apartment complexes, UN Relief and Works Agency shelters and mental health clinics with a deadly proficiency that would make historic war criminals blush with envy.

It has laid waste to thousands of its hardscrabble built homes and left upwards of a hundred thousand Palestinians internally displaced, indeed homeless – leaving many families at a breaking point.

For the survivors of the Gaza killing fields, Israel has made life unbearable over the past decade though a criminal embargo that not only guarantees insufficient caloric intake, fresh water and medicine, but denies to its 1.8 million survivors building materials essential for the reconstruction of its beleaguered, and largely levelled, infrastructure.

Not satisfied with physical pain alone, with cruel, wanton abandon, it is no stretch to find that its master plan has consciously induced levels of post-traumatic stress disorder unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Given all these palpable elements of ethnic cleansing, it is reasonably projected that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 thereby once again driving several million traumatised refugees out on to the road of an uncertain and dangerous diaspora.

To describe Israel’s Gaza strategy as anything but one intended to cause “serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” is to deny a very public and systematic orgy of punishment meted out to Palestinian civilians on the basis of group identity and dynamic – and nothing more.

In the West Bank, Israel’s calculus of pain and punishment is largely a difference without a distinction: one that varies in form but not intent or ultimate goal.

Not satisfied with the 531 villages and localities it depopulated and completely eradicated during the early days of the Nakba, since 1967 Israel has stolen, resettled and annexed almost all of the West Bank, including much of East Jerusalem, in clear violation of Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibit an occupation force from doing little more than erecting limited bases for its own security needs in occupied land.

During this criminal land grab, it has approved, indeed subsidized, the building of illegal housing for some 800,000 – largely immigrant – settlers at the same time it has destroyed almost 50,000 Palestinian structures, largely homes, many of them ages-old, rendering tens of thousands of its indigenous population homeless, often destitute or dependent upon the largesse of already overcrowded housing of family or friends.

None of these facts about Israel’s sordid and deadly history can be dispatched as the product of mere hyperbole or unsupported hearsay.

Claims of Israeli genocide have been substantiated time and time again by a host of independent human rights organisations and NGOs, with no axe to grind, and include findings from respected groups from within Israel, itself.

In point of fact, from its arrogant perch, Israel has not just committed unspeakable acts of genocide but done so with absolute transparency as if to say to the rest of the world: there we did it, and we are well beyond the reach of international law.

Make no mistake about it, the sum total of Israel’s efforts these past 68 years is nothing short of the deliberate infliction upon Palestinians, as a cognizable group, conditions of life and death calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part.

In the presence of overwhelming evidence of premeditated Israeli genocide, to argue otherwise is to reduce the dark, evil and systematic deeds of Stalin, Kissinger, Pol Pot and the Hutu state to little more than a collection of misunderstood happenstance.

Yes, Mr Prime Minister, you should quit while you are ahead. Today, Israel stands charged with violations of the law of occupation. Tomorrow, it might very well, indeed should, find itself seated in a well-deserved international dock on trial for genocide.

Stanley L Cohen is a lawyer and human rights activist who has done extensive work in the Middle East and Africa.

International Criminal Court Gets Slammed; Russia, Other Countries, Withdraw from Body

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By Richard Edmondson

The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, seems to feel that the only people capable of committing war crimes are Africans.

You can go here to view a list of 32 people indicted by the ICC since the year 2005. All of them are from Africa. The list includes such notable U.S. enemies as Muammar Gaddafi and his son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

Some African nations have said ‘enough is enough’ and ended their membership in the court, and just last week Russia announced that it too will follow suit.

The International Criminal Court, or ICC, was set up with the passage of the Rome Statute, an international treaty adopted in Rome in 1998. The treaty formally went into effect in 2002, and the ICC began operations that same year. States which have either ratified or become signatories to the treaty become, in turn, members of the ICC. Currently 124 countries, at least officially, hold such membership. These are each allowed one voting representative on the Assembly of State Parties. The ASP is a legislative body set up to provide “management oversight” of the ICC, but usually it only meets once a year.

The court was given a mandate to investigate and prosecute crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression. There’s lots of that going on in the world, you know. Crimes against humanity for instance entail large-scale attacks against civilian populations. Just off the top of our heads we might think of, oh, say, Israel’s attacks against Gaza and its deliberate targeting of hospitals, UN schools, and residential buildings.

ustortureiraq

Or take the category “war crimes”–crimes falling under this classification include the torture of prisoners, oh, such as occurred in US-run torture facilities.  Heck, we even have Obama admitting, “We tortured some folks.”

But up until January of this year, just about the only armed conflict venues the ICC had ever launched formal investigations into were in… Africa.

Ah! But on January 27, 2016, in a rare departure, the ICC announced it wouldlook into some alleged crimes committed outside of Africa.

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Umm…to be sure, the scope of this new investigation will not cover US officials such as, say, Alberto Gonzales, or the US treatment of prisoners in Iraq; and…well…neither is the ICC investigating Israel for its firing of white phosphorus shells into a UN compound in Gaza City on January 15, 2008, or the Jewish state’s use of the controversial “Hannibal Directive” during its 2014 war on Gaza, a measure which resulted in the deaths of 190 civilians in the town of Rafah on August 1, 2014–the date Palestinians have since come to refer to as “Black Friday.”

No.

Specifically the ICC has begun, or found itself compelled to begin, an investigation into the Russia-Georgia war over South Ossetia that occurred in 2008. And just to make sure the world understands it is being fair and impartial, the court has announced it has “gathered information on alleged crimes attributed to the three parties involved in the armed conflict – the Georgian armed forces, the South Ossetian forces, and the Russian armed forces.”

So yes, the court is now investigating Russia.

But as I say, the only indictments so far have been of Africans.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that last month three African countries announced their withdrawal from the court. The three countries are: South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia. The Parliament of Kenya has also voted to leave the ICC. And in 2015, the African National Congress issued a public statement in which it asserted that the “ICC is no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended.”

But perhaps the real blockbuster came last week when Russia announced it, too, will be withdrawing from the Rome Statute and the ICC. This took place via an announcement posted on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry on November 16.

Interestingly, on that same day, November 16, University of Illinois Law Professor Francis A. Boyle sent out an email containing a scathing indictment of the ICC, the legal scholar denouncing the court as “a joke and a fraud.”

The comments of both Boyle, who has an extensive background in international law, and the Russian government, were prompted by a recently-released ICC report blandly entitled, “Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2016,” that was  published on the ICC’s website on November 14.

The report (available here in PDF) offers the results of a “preliminary investigation” into nine different conflict areas in the world. The ICC views a preliminary investigation as a necessary step in order to determine “whether a situation meets the legal criteria” needed to warrant a full investigation. In other words, the ICC is investigating whether or not to do an investigation.

Of the nine different conflict areas, two are of particular interest: Palestine and Ukraine. Russia’s main concern, as you might expect, would be the findings pertaining to the latter. The concerns expressed by Boyle, on the other hand, were focused on the section of the report dealing with Palestine. Let’s take Palestine first.

The ICC on Palestine

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ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

The report is a declaration of activities undertaken by the branch of the ICC known as the Office of the Prosecutor, referred to in the document as “OPT”, or simply “the Office.” The OPT’s main area of inquiry is the 2014 Gaza conflict, known as Operation Protective Edge. By contrast, Operation Cast Lead, the bloody conflict which took place in 2008-09, goes completely unmentioned, and the term “white phosphorus” does not appear anywhere in the report.

While the report does supply a “contextual background” to the Israel-Palestine conflict–in the course of which the Six-Day War is mentioned, as are Israel’s “unilateral withdrawal” from Gaza in 2005 and the election of Hamas the following year–most of the section on Palestine, as I say, deals with the events of 2014.

“All parties are alleged to have committed crimes during the 51-day conflict,” the report states, and the words “alleged” or “allegedly” are employed repeatedly throughout.

Alleged crimes said to have been committed by Palestinians include “attacks against civilians,” “use of protected persons as shields” and “ill-treatment of persons accused of being collaborators.” A single paragraph is devoted to each category, following which the report moves on to “Acts allegedly committed by the IDF,” and here the “alleged” crimes include “attacks against residential buildings and civilians,” “attacks against medical facilities and personnel,” “attacks against UNRWA schools,” and “attacks against other civilian objects and infrastructure.” Once again, a single paragraph is devoted to each alleged crime.

The ICC says it has reviewed “over 320 reports as well as related documentation and supporting material” in the course of conducting its preliminary investigation. The report also mentions a trip to Israel by the OPT that took place October 5 to 10, 2016. The visit is said to have been facilitated by “Israeli and Palestinian authorities,” but apparently did not include a visit to Gaza. At least none is mentioned. One place they did visit, however, is Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where supposedly the OPC staff “engaged with the law faculty.” Why there was need for such an engagement is not clear, although the report does say the trip to Israel as a whole was undertaken for purpose of “raising awareness about the ICC” as well as to “address any misperceptions” about the judicial body.

Boyle’s comments about the ICC report, or at least his “alleged” comments, we might say, were posted at the Al-Awda Yahoo group (Yahoo login required), and were also sent out by email.

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In addition to branding the ICC “a joke and a fraud” the comment also makes reference to the visit to Hebrew University, which indeed is described on page 32 of the report.

The ICC’s “conclusion and next steps” in regard to its investigation on Palestine will be aimed at “continuing to engage in a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available, in order to establish whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.” It will also “assess information on potentially relevant national proceedings, as necessary and appropriate.”

The ICC on Ukraine

Like Boyle’s posted comment, Russia’s announced withdrawal from the ICC also came on November 16–in a statement posted on the website of the nation’s Foreign Ministry. The statement does not single out Ukraine or the ICC report specifically. Its criticisms of the court are generalized. But the timing, just two days after the report’s publication, would strongly suggest that the one was prompted by the other.

The ICC report portrays the Maidan protests largely as a spontaneous popular uprising, making no mention of the US role in the overthrow of the Yanukovych government. Reference to the leaked phone conversation between the State Department’s Victoria Nuland and Jeffry Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine, in which the two discussed who would become the new Ukrainian head of state, is completely omitted. “The protest movement continued to grow in strength and reportedly diversified to include individuals and groups who were generally dissatisfied with the Yanukovych Government and demanded his removal from office,” says the report, and the narrative adhered to is primarily that of the US:

On 21 February 2014, under European Union mediation, President Yanukovych and opposition representatives agreed on a new government and fixed Presidential elections for May 2014. However, on 22 February 2014, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to remove President Yanukovych, and he left the country that day to the Russian Federation.

In other words, it was all legal and on the up-and-up.

The relaying of events in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine also follows a similar pattern. The Crimean referendum of March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of voters chose to rejoin Russia, is referred to as “the alleged decision of residents of Crimea to join the Russian Federation,” with the report mentioning that the referendum “was declared invalid by the interim Ukrainian Government.” The “interim Ukrainian Government” means, of course, the government installed by the US, though the report doesn’t say so.

While occasional reference is made to crimes committed by “all sides” or “both sides” in the Ukrainian conflict, clearly the main focus is on the alleged transgressions of Russia and, to a lesser extent, those of armed opposition groups in Donbass that are allied to Russia. The crimes cited include:

  • Harassment of Crimean Tatar population
  • Killing and abduction
  • “Ill treatment”
  • Detention
  • Disappearance
  • Torture

The report also talks about destruction of property, including homes and schools, asserting that this has occurred “in both government-controlled territory and in areas controlled by armed groups.” But its fundamental conclusion is that the situation in Ukraine is legally classified as an “armed conflict.” As such, “the situation within the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol factually amounts to an on-going state of occupation.” Occupation by Russia, that is. Furthermore, “a determination of whether or not the initial intervention which led to the occupation is considered lawful or not is not required.” Or in other words, while Russia conceivably may have had some valid concerns (though the report leaves it entirely up to the reader’s imagination to guess what these might be), none of these will be taken into consideration by the ICC.

As noted above, the statement put out by the Russia Foreign Ministry makes no direct reference to the November 14 report, and its criticisms of the ICC are of a mostly generalized nature:

The ICC as the first permanent body of international criminal justice inspired high hopes of the international community in the fight against impunity in the context of common efforts to maintain international peace and security, to settle ongoing conflicts and to prevent new tensions.

Unfortunately the Court failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal. The work of the Court is characterized in a principled way as ineffective and one-sided in different fora, including the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is worth noting that during the 14 years of the Court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars.

And while Ukraine isn’t specifically mentioned, the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia is:

The Russian Federation cannot be indifferent to the Court’s attitude vis-a-vis the situation of August 2008. The Saakashvili regime’s attack on peaceful Tshinval, the assassination of the Russian peacekeepers resulted in the Court’s accusations against South-ossetian militia and Russian soldiers. Eventual investigation of actions and orders of Georgian officials was left to the discretion of the Georgian justice and remains outside of the focus of the ICC Prosecutor’s office attention. This development speaks for itself. We can hardly trust the ICC in such a situation.

The statement also acknowledges the widespread dissatisfaction with the ICC by countries in Africa:

In this regard the demarche of the African Union which has decided to develop measures on a coordinated withdrawal of African States from the Rome Statute is understandable. Some of these States are already conducting such procedures.

Conclusions

While some of those indicted over the years by the ICC may well have deserved it, at the same time, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that the court has been used as a tool by powerful countries. Yes, it’s true, the ICC is conducting an ongoing “preliminary investigation” into the conflict in Afghanistan. The November 14 report in fact includes a section on Afghanistan which addresses crimes committed by the three main parties to the conflict: the Taliban, Afghan government forces, and the US-led international forces. With regard to the latter, the ICC states it has “a reasonable basis to believe” that the US “resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and rape.”

Yet elsewhere in the same section, a somewhat contradictory view is offered:

Having reviewed information on a large number of incidents attributed to the international forces, the Office has determined that, although these operations resulted in incidental loss of civilian life and harm to civilians, in most incidents the information available does not provide a reasonable basis to believe that the military forces intended the civilian population as such or individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities to be the object of attack.

The report goes on to discuss “a few other incidents,” said to involve international forces, though without offering much hope of a prosecution due to “a paucity of the information” concerning them.

The chances of the ICC prosecuting any US official for war crimes seems slim, and indeed as the New York Times put it in a report published on November 14, the court’s prosecutor “has been considering whether to begin a full-fledged investigation into potential war crimes [committed by the US] in Afghanistan for years.”

Or to be more precise, for years the prosecutor has been “investigating whether to investigate” the US.

Interestingly, the Times article goes on to note as well that the court has been “under great pressure to show that it is unbiased in its targets for investigation.”

I have yet to point it out, but I will do so here: the ICC report of November 14 also contains no mention of Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

In the wake of Moscow’s announcement of its withdrawal from the ICC, two Russian writers, Dmitry Rodionov and Sergey Aksenov, published a commentaryon the issue, noting, as did the Foreign Ministry, that the judicial body had spent more than $1 billion over the 14 years of its existence and in the process had handed down only four sentences. They comment:

…The Hague prosecutor called the Crimean referendum “illegal” and the situation on the peninsula “occupation.” The fact that Russian troops were present on the peninsula according to agreements with Ukraine is ignored by the report.

For all of next year and perhaps even longer, the ICC will gather evidence on Crimea. Hague investigations are usually dragged on for years. For example, the court’s prosecutor received permission to investigate the events in South Ossetia from 2008 only this year….

According to lawyer Ilya Novikov, the court’s negative decision on Crimea could potentially result in formal charges and ICC arrest warrants. This will enable the countries complying with the Rome Statue to arrest Russian citizens and send them to the Hague court.

Assistant professor of political theory at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Kirill Koktysh, has pointed out that the ICC’s legal position is incorrect. It was not an annexation that took place in Crimea like the Hague asserts, but a secession: first Crimea seceded from Ukraine and only then joined Russia. According to Koktysh, the ICC’s initiative resembles a PR action rather than a strict legal procedure.

Whether the ICC is engaging in a “PR action,” as the Russians comment, or whether the court is a “joke and a fraud,” as Boyle would seem to have it, the upshot is that for the entire 14 years since the court came into existence, the biggest war criminals in the world have skated away scot-free.

HRW: US Should Stop Making Excuses for Saudi Violations in Yemen

October 11, 2016

Source

Sanaa massacre

Despite rising outrage over the bloody civilian toll in Yemen’s war, the United States administration is showing no signs of breaking with – or attempting to check – the actions of its ally Saudi Arabia, the leader of the nine-nation coalition against Yemen, a report by Human Rights Watch said.

The report refers to an article in the Washington Post this week that suggested the US is willing to rationalize Saudi responsibility for laws-of-war violations in the 19-month campaign – as well as attempting to minimize its own role in the conflict.

“Does an ally have to give you a blank check for everything you’re doing in a war?” a senior State Department official is quoted as saying.

The HRW report stated highlighted that the US has supported the Saudi-led campaign with aerial refueling and targeting assistance without criticizing Saudi Arabia and its allies for repeatedly and unlawfully bombing civilians, committing apparent war crimes.

“The nature of this support makes the US a party to the armed conflict, and potentially culpable in unlawful strikes,” it said.

“The US also continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia – more than $20-billion worth of military support and weapons in 2015 – despite increasing recognition that weapons may get unlawfully used,” it added.

The report underscored in the W. Post report that “US officials say that “errors of capability or competence, not of malice” led to repeated Saudi-led coalition strikes on civilian structures. But how do they know? There have been no serious investigations into allegedly unlawful attacks.”

“Moreover, whether Saudi targeteers were malicious or simply poorly trained does not absolve the government of responsibility. Indiscriminate attacks that fail to distinguish between civilians and military objectives as well as those that cause disproportionate loss of civilian life or property are also illegal under the laws of war,” HRW stressed.

Editor of the report, Priyanka Motaparthy , wrote that when she visited Washington this summer “to share Human Rights Watch’s findings on how the coalition has repeatedly hit civilian objects, administration officials said they believed the Saudis were just bad at targeting. This belief strains credulity. Coalition airstrikes have repeatedly struck, including with precision-guided weapons, civilian structures like medicine factories and food storage compounds, and clearly marked hospitals for which Medecins Sans Frontieres previously provided GPS coordinates. They have also repeatedly hit marketplaces during the day, when high numbers of civilians are known to be present. Lacking competence and showing insufficient regard for civilian lives or protected facilities are not mutually exclusive.”

The Washington Post article added that “military lawyers have reviewed Saudi actions and say no laws have been violated because, in their view, the civilian deaths appear to be unintentional.” But coalition pilots and operational commanders do not have to intentionally kill civilians to commit war crimes. Reckless attacks can be subject to war crimes prosecutions.

“As congressional concern with Washington’s role in Yemen increases, US officials will need to provide better answers for Saudi actions, rather than making excuses or stonewalling on the US role and how US weapons have been used. Helping a longtime ally does not let one off the hook for all responsibility in the deaths of more than 4,000 civilians, nor for shipping billions of dollars of arms that are likely to be used in the coming year’s abuses,” HRW ended up saying.

Source: Human Rights Watch

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