HRC debates Saudi war crimes in Yemen, Alkhalifa persecution of Bahrainis
International calls for an independent inquiry into Saudi war crimes in Yemen have intensified. The ongoing 33rd session of the Human Rights Council has been inundated by calls from countries and NGOs for such an inquiry after a “national” one failed to carry out impartial investigation. The new calls were stepped up on Monday 19th September when the Dutch government requested international impartial investigation be carried out on the conduct of the war on Yemen. Roderick van Schreven, the Dutch permanent representative to Geneva, told the council that he wanted to “reiterate our grave concern about the ongoing and deepening crisis in Yemen”. “The gravity of alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law over the last year cannot be ignored and international comprehensive investigations of all violations committed by all parties are now called for,” he said. Other countries including Brazil supported the call. The pro-Saudi lobby attempted to block NGOs from addressing the session knowing that they would call for the long-awaited independent inquiry. But several countries objected to this pathetic request.
In a related development, the most comprehensive survey of the conflict in Yemen has concluded that more than one-third of all Saudi-led air raids on Yemen have hit civilian sites, such as school buildings, hospitals, markets, mosques and economic infrastructure. The findings, revealed by the Guardian on 16th September, contrast with claims by the Saudi government, backed by its US and British allies, that Riyadh is seeking to minimise civilian casualties. The survey, conducted by the Yemen Data Project, a group of academics, human rights organisers and activists, will add to mounting pressure in the UK and the US on the Saudi-led coalition, which is facing accusations of breaching international humanitarian law. It will refocus attention on UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, worth more than £3.3bn since the air campaign began, and the role of British military personnel attached to the Saudi command and control centres, from which air operations are being mounted. Two British parliamentary committees have called for the suspension of such sales until a credible and independent inquiry has been conducted.
On 19th September Amnesty International said it had evidence that a Saudi-led coalition battling Yemeni rebels dropped a U.S.-made bomb on a hospital, and is calling for a halt to arms sales to the coalition. The airstrike in question hit a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, in northern Yemen last month, killing 19 people. Amnesty says in its report that a picture analyzed by a munitions expert revealed that a U.S.-made precision-guided Paveway-series bomb was dropped on the site. Other evidence confirmed that phosphorus and cluster bombs were dropped on civilian targets in Yemen.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said that in the week 13th -19th September at least six native Bahrainis were arbitrarily detained by the regime. There were at least 41 marches in 23 towns and villages, some of which were mercilessly attacked by regime’s forces. In Geneva several NGOs have called for a Special Rapporteur to investigate into human rights violations in Bahrain. Furthermore 22 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have asked the HRC’s member states to call for the release of Nabeel Rajab. Under Item 2 the European Union called on Bahrain to allow visits by UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture. Under Item 4 several countries, including Switzerland, have also criticised Alkhalifa regime for banning human rights activists from attending the ongoing HRC session. The Czech Republic called for an immediate halt to the persecution by Bahrain’s regime of religious scholars and leaders like Sheikh Maitham Al Salman and Ayatuallah Sheikh Isa Qassim. Meanwhile the regime’s courts have ordered the detention of more people for their peaceful protests. Sheikh Ali AlJuffairi has been remanded in custody for two more weeks for attending the congregation outside Sheikh Isa Qassim’s house.
In London Prince Charles has been on the receiving end of criticisms for his planned visit to Bahrain’s dictators. A human rights group has condemned a visit in November. The tour, which includes visits to Oman and the United Arab Emirates, was announced yesterday by Clarence House. It comes a week after Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, spoke out against the harassment of political activists in Bahrain. Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said: “The timing of Prince Charles’s visit suggests that the major human rights violations in 2016 are not in the British monarchy’s mind. The UN high commissioner for human rights called Bahrain’s attempts to smash the voices of its people ‘disastrous’ last week. “Prince Charles’s visit not only tells Bahrain that the UK doesn’t care that torture victims are on death row and critics face decades in prison, it actively endorses this repression.” The trip must be cancelled.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
21st September 2016