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All parties guilty in Yemeni conflict

International | UN investigators call for arms restrictions and an inquiry into rights violations
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 9/10/19, 06:16 pm

Several Western nations, including the United States, are likely complicit actors in the civil war in Yemen that sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United Nations said last week. The investigation also accused both sides in the conflict of atrocities in the targeting of civilians.

The report by a group of experts on Yemen within the UN Human Rights Council involved more than 600 interviews with victims and witnesses.

The United States, Britain, and France continue to provide logistical and weapons support to the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government, according to the report. Iran has thrown its support behind the Houthi rebels.

“The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other states remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings,” it added.

The report found the Yemeni government continues to arbitrarily detain and torture political opponents, kill civilians in airstrikes, and deliberately deny food to those affected by famine. The Houthis have also fired indirect weapons like rockets and artillery and used landmines that killed civilians.

The warring sides have employed siege-like warfare and hindered humanitarian access during the unrest. “All parties to the conflict regularly used civilian objects for military activities, including those with special protection such as hospitals and religious and cultural sites,” according to the report.

The investigation uncovered that a Joint Incidents Assessment Team set up by Saudi Arabia to look into coalition violations did not take action against the strikes that hit civilians, raising “concerns as to the impartiality of its investigations.”

The UN report said its independent panel sent a secret list of more than 160 actors identified as “individuals who may be responsible for international crimes” to UN human rights chief Michele Bachelet. The list includes nationals from the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the Houthis.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Houthi rebels overran the capital, Sanaa, and part of the country’s north. The Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab states, which is backed by the United States, intervened a year later to try and restore the internationally recognized government of President Mansour Abed Rabbo Hadi.

In the south, separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates continue to clash with the Saudi-backed forces. The violence has killed at least 7,290 civilians and left 80 percent of the population—24 million people—in need of humanitarian assistance. In one of the deadliest attacks yet, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit a Houthi-run detention center in Sanaa last week. More than 100 people died and dozens more sustained injuries.

The investigators have called for a prompt and transparent investigation into the violence against civilians. It also recommended all countries impose a ban on arms transfers to the combatants to prevent them from being used to commit serious violations.

The Saudi-led coalition rejected the allegations in a statement, saying, “The report was based on a number of inaccurate assumptions by the UN experts … which stripped it of objectivity and impartiality.”

Days before the report’s release, a group of bipartisan U.S. lawmakers renewed their push to amend the annual defense policy bill to ban the country from sending spare airplane parts to Saudi Arabia, as well as some forms of intelligence sharing.

Muhsin Siddiquey, the country director of Oxfam in Yemen, added the “shocking report” should serve as a wake-up call: “It offers all the proof needed of the misery and suffering being inflicted on the people of Yemen by a war partly fueled by U.K. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other coalition members.”

Associated Press/Photo by Rahmat Gul Associated Press/Photo by Rahmat Gul Kabul residents set fire to part of the Green Village compound on Sept. 3.

Afghanistan residents caught in the crossfire as peace talks fail

Residents in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, demanded their foreign neighbors vacate the neighborhood after the latest in a string of Taliban attacks targeted the area last week. The surge in violence also put a halt to the Taliban’s peace talks with the United States.

A suicide bomber struck the Green Village, home to several international organizations and guesthouses in Kabul. The explosion also destroyed neighboring homes and shops, killing at least 30 people and injuring more than 100 others.

Enraged protesters threw rocks and flaming bottles into the compound and set fire to a guard tower. In another attack on the compound in January, five people died and more than 100 others sustained injuries.

“We’ve complained time and again to get this … camp out of here because in each attack we suffer the most,” 30-year-old Atiquillah told The New York Times.

Separate attacks last week targeting another diplomatic area near the U.S. Embassy killed one U.S. service member and several civilians.

“We understand that peace talks are going on,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, “but they must also understand that we are not weak, and if we enter into talks … we enter from a strong position.”

The brazen attacks came as U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalizad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul to brief him on the peace efforts with the Taliban. In a sign of mounting tension, Khalilzad traveled abruptly to Qatar for unexpected talks with the extremists but was recalled to Washington. Ghani also postponed a trip to Washington slated for this week.

President Donald Trump said he canceled secret peace talks with the Taliban that were to take place at Camp David in Maryland. “What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position?” the president noted. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Themba Hadebe Associated Press/Photo by Themba Hadebe A damaged shop in Germiston, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Sept. 3.

South Africans attack migrant business owners

Diplomatic tensions soared in South Africa last week as other African nations took action against increasingly violent xenophobic attacks.

The unrest began at the start of this month as armed demonstrators vandalized foreign-owned shops in Pretoria’s business district. Authorities said at least 12 people died in Pretoria and Johannesburg, while authorities arrested more than 640 people.

It’s still unclear what sparked the latest bout of unrest. Foreign-owned businesses have been on the receiving end of mounting economic frustration in South Africa, where unemployment is at a decade high of 29 percent. South Africans also accused Nigerians of dealing drugs. Last year, about 60 people died in attacks targeting foreigners. South Africa is a major hub for economic migrants from neighboring African countries. Dozens of Bangladeshi shop owners also said their shops were targeted.

Since the violence started, Nigerians have also vandalized South African chains in Abuja and Lagos in retaliation. South Africa closed its diplomatic mission in Nigeria, and the country also recalled its high commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala. Nigerian Air Peace commercial airline offered to transport Nigerians who wanted to return to their country “free of charge.”

Similar destruction also occurred in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South African President Cyril Rampahosa condemned the violence. “We need to quell those incidents of unrest,” he said. “South Africa must be a country where everyone feels safe.” —O.O.

Getty Images/Photo by Asif Hassan/AFP (file) Getty Images/Photo by Asif Hassan/AFP (file) Protesters against Asia Bibi in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2018

Asia Bibi calls for justice for other blasphemy law victims

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was on death row because of charges of blasphemy against Islam, gave her first newspaper interview last week, nearly a year after the Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted her.

Bibi told The Sunday Telegraph she sometimes despaired during her eight-year false imprisonment and called for reform of the blasphemy law and justice for its victims. She said the Pakistani government needs to review the law because it allows imprisonment without a sufficient investigation or any evidence. “There are many other cases where the accused are lying in jail for years and their decision should also be done on merit,” she said. “The world should listen to them.”

Pakistan has about 77 people, mostly Muslim, imprisoned under blasphemy laws, according to estimates from the U.S. State Department.

Bibi said the fear of being killed by extremists forced her to flee to Canada, but added she was heartbroken to leave her homeland. —Julia A. Seymour

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 09/11/2019 04:18 pm

    Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I Peter 5:8, NKJV

    Seems like the best explanation for the turmoil in every corner of the world.