Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

UN initiative to protect schools in war zones vetoed by Britain

RT | February 9, 2016

Britain has refused to sign up to a UN agreement on protecting schools in wartime, which has been signed by 51 states, despite the fact it was drawn up by a former UK military officer.

The agreement was championed by the UN children’s fund UNICEF to protect schools from attack during conflicts. It aimed to set out a “safe schools declaration” and provide guidelines for military forces.

However, it was reported on Tuesday by the Telegraph newspaper that Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond had effectively vetoed the move after having opposed it as head of two government departments.

Already signed by 51 nations, the initiative was developed in response to deadly attacks on schools in Syria and Yemen.

In a statement on Monday, Amnesty International senior crisis advisor Lama Fakih reported how schools were being targeted with deadly effect in Yemen, where a Sunni/Shia proxy war is currently being fought with Saudi and Iranian backing.

“The Saudi Arabia-led coalition launched a series of unlawful airstrikes on schools being used for educational – not for military – purposes, a flagrant violation of the laws of war,” she wrote.

“Schools are central to civilian life, they are meant to offer a safe space for children. Yemen’s young school pupils are being forced to pay the price for these attacks,” she added.

It was hoped Britain would be a leading voice in the campaign to protect schoolchildren and schools after the high-profile campaign against sexual violence in warzones led by Phillip Hammond’s predecessor William Hague and movie star Angelina Jolie.

But Britain, like the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, did not sign up.

It is rumored that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Foreign Office have been put off by fears of litigation given the volume of cases brought against the military for alleged crimes in the Iraq and Afghan occupations.

Initially it appears that of the three government departments whose support was needed only the MoD – then under Hammond – was resisting, while the Department for International Development (DFID) and Hague’s Foreign Office were supportive.

Hammond’s subsequent shift from defense to the Foreign Office is felt to have poisoned both the military and diplomatic ministries against the initiative, despite the fact the agreement was drawn up by a former British naval officer.

Steven Haines, who drew up the British military rulebook for the 2003 Iraq invasion, is now a professor of international law at the University of Greenwich.

He told the Telegraph of his disappointment at the government’s response to his proposals.

“The stumbling block was Philip Hammond at Defence,” he said.

“It’s very frustrating.

“There’s no way that I was going to draft something that would embarrass the British government.”

The declaration, which was launched in Norway in 2015, commits governments to six guidelines including one which prevents military forces for using from using active schools as military bases.

It was thought that if Britain signed up then its role as a trainer of foreign troops would help to engender respect for schools and schoolchildren among military forces globally.

A Foreign Office spokesman defended the move, telling the paper that while they “support the spirit of the initiative, we have concerns that the Guidelines do not mirror the exact language and content of International Humanitarian Law.

“Therefore the UK, along with several other countries, was not able to sign the Safe Schools Declaration in Oslo in May 2015,” the spokesman said.

Britain’s concern about future legal cases may spring from its controversial military support for regional ally Saudi Arabia in the Gulf theocracy’s war in Yemen.

That support has included both material backing, in the form of weapons and munitions traded by UK arms firms subject to government license, and the presence of British military personnel as advisors to the Saudi military.

The UK government maintains the military advisors are present in Saudi headquarters to ensure international law is followed.

February 9, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

100s of Those Killed by US Drone Strikes in Pakistan Remain Unidentified

Sputnik | February 6, 2016

Of thousands killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004, less than one third of the victims have been identified, including a record low number of ten last year, according to an international investigation.

A UK-based not-for-profit organization revealed the figures in the framework of their “Naming the Dead” project. Initially created for tracking US drone strikes in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, the project seeks to identify casualties, calling for accountability for the attacks.

According to project data, of 2,494 people confirmed killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan, only 729 have been identified. In 2015 the names of those killed was extremely small – only ten of 60 allegedly killed by drones.

Five of ten victims were pronounced members of Al Qaeda, another three were named Pakistani Taliban fighters and the last two were aid workers from Western states.

The US carried out 13 drone attacks in Pakistan in 2015, killing about 60 people. While unnamed sources revealed to Naming the Dead that the vast majority of victims in the six attacks were Uzbeks, the data on the rest of those killed remains scarce.

In 2015, Pakistan authorities declined to assist in the identification process of victims, for the first time since the US launched its drone campaign.According to Common Dreams, ISPR, the Pakistani military propaganda division, could have banned the release of data pertaining to the issue. Islamabad has started a military campaign against terrorists and other non-state groups in Waziristan in 2014, preventing data from being leaked.

ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, is reportedly keeping secret the names of those murdered in drone attacks across the state’s tribal areas. Before 2015, the agency used to provide reporters and officials with the lion’s share of information on casualties, including those caused by American unmanned aerial vehicles.

ISI is still providing journalists with the names of Taliban and al Qaeda members murdered by US drones in Afghanistan.

But, as the Bureau announced, both Afghan and Pakistan officials tend to underestimate the number of casualties in bordering regions. They reported on 700 killed in drone attacks in 2015. In reality, Naming the Dead says at least 100 more people were killed.According to Washington, a total of 411 air and drone strikes were conducted in Afghanistan last year. But that’s all the authorities announced, leaving no specific information of number of killed people there.

See also:

Taliban Denies Group’s Responsibility for Pakistan University Attack

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CIA covert ops needs Saudi money: decades story recurring

American Herald Tribune | January 30, 2016

For decades, America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been relying on its partner’s money in discrete and covert operations; the money of the Saudi oil-rich kingdom.

Citing several current and former US officials, the New York Times reported on Jan. 23 that from the very beginning of the US operations against the Assad government in Syria, Saudi money was largely the supporter.

The most recent example of this ‘close bond’ between the US and Saudi Arabia has came to light in the New York Times article, which reported that US President Barack Obama knew well the US could rely on Saudi money when, in 2013, he secretly gave the CIA the green light to arm militant groups in Syria that were fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Code-named Timber Sycamore, the deal stipulates that the Saudis contribute both weapons and large sums of money and the CIA takes the lead in training the rebels on AK-47 assault rifles and tank-destroying missiles.

In 2012, the US repeatedly claimed that the Timber Sycamore program was designed to deliver what it claimed to be ‘non-lethal’ aid, yet months later, Obama gave his approval for the CIA to begin directly arming and training the rebels from a base in Jordan, amending the Timber Sycamore program to allow lethal assistance.

Also, the NY Times report noticeably underlines that such a long intelligence relationship helps explain why the United States has been reluctant to openly criticize Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, its treatment of women and its support for the extreme ideology Wahhabism, that has inspired many of the very terrorist groups.

In the latest violation which brought uproar across the Muslim world in particular, Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, for challenging the oppression of the royal family and demanding human rights, yet the Obama administration did not publically condemn the action. Also, another form of Saudi human rights abuses to which the US has had no clear condemnation is its war on Yemen that has so far claimed the lives of more than 8,270 people including women and children.

The CIA covert operations in Syria began in 2013, in which more than 10,000 Wahhabi terrorists were armed, funded and trained. The trainings were taking place inside Jordan’s territories, and estimates have put the total cost of the ops at several billion dollars.

“They understand that they have to have us, and we understand that we have to have them,” said Mike Rogers, the former Republican congressman who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when the CIA operation began.

The operation was described as part of the so-called “counterterrorism” program. On this note, a former State Department counterterrorism adviser and the author of a book on the Islamic State, William McCants points out “The more that the argument becomes, ‘We need them as a counterterrorism partner,’ the less persuasive it is. If this is purely a conversation about counterterrorism cooperation, and if the Saudis are a big part of the problem in creating terrorism in the first place, then how persuasive of an argument is it?”

Even though the biggest contributor was Saudi Arabia, yet its allies also had their share in the game. According to the NY Times, when Obama signed off on arming the rebels in the spring of 2013, the Qataris, Turkish and Saudis had been funneling weapons into Syria for more than a year. The Qataris had even smuggled in shipments of Chinese-made FN-6 shoulder-fired missiles over the border from Turkey.

MORE…

January 30, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", War Crimes, Deception | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Britain’s ‘proxy war’ in Yemen condemned by critics

RT | January 28, 2016

Britain is at war in Yemen and is arming and facilitating a brutal Saudi dictatorship that is bombing innocent civilians, a growing chorus of critics has warned.

The allegation that Britain is engaged in covert warfare in Yemen was first made by Scottish National Party (SNP) Westminster leader Angus Robertson during a heated discussion in Parliament on Monday. However, it has since been echoed by political commentators and human rights campaigners, who are demanding the government come clean on the role of UK forces in the Saudi-led campaign.

The conflict in Yemen consists of a range of regional, local and international power struggles emanating from historical and recent events. As scrutiny of Britain’s involvement in the war intensifies, campaigners and commentators insist that the UK is intervening in the conflict. They argue that Britain’s arming of the Saudi-led coalition and provision of advice to Saudi military personnel amounts to proxy warfare.

‘Reckless conduct’

Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia totaled £2.95 billion (US$4.23 billion) for the first nine months of 2015, and roughly £7 billion since Prime Minister David Cameron took office in 2010. Amid mounting concerns that UK-made weapons have been used to bomb schools, hospitals, markets and other civilian targets in Yemen, Cameron has been urged to suspend all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn sent a letter to the PM on Wednesday demanding transparency on Britain’s involvement, after a leaked version of a UN panel’s report concluded attacks on Yemeni civilians had been “widespread and systemic.”

The 51-page report, which was obtained by the Guardian, examined 199 missions conducted by the Saudi-led coalition that violated international law.

Many of the attacks involved repeated airstrikes on civilian objects, including refugee camps; civilian gatherings such as weddings; civilian vehicles such as buses; residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and essential civilian infrastructure. Three cases of civilians being pursued and shot at by aircraft as they fled residential bombings were also recorded.

UK director of Human Rights Watch said the findings of the UN report “flatly contradict” UK ministers’ rhetoric about the Saudi-led coalition’s actions in Yemen.

“For almost a year, [Foreign Secretary] Philip Hammond has made the false and misleading claim that there is no evidence of law or war violations by the UK’s Saudi ally and other members of the coalition,” he told the Guardian.

Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth expressed disgust at the government’s attempt to downplay concerns over Saudi Arabia’s conduct in Yemen.

“Thousands of civilians have already died and it’s been utterly dismaying to see Downing Street brushing aside extremely serious concerns about the reckless conduct of Saudi Arabia in this devastating conflict,” he said.

Conflict in Yemen

Saudi Arabia revealed earlier this month that British and American forces are stationed in the control center from which military operations against Yemen are being directed. However, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has refused to disclose how many British personnel are involved.

The department also insists Britain’s involvement is confined to advice and training geared at ensuring Saudi Arabia complies with international law.

Yemen’s civil war kicked off in 2014, after Zaidi Shiite-led Houthi rebels overran the capital, Sanaa. The rebels, who had been targeted in six separate wars by Yemen’s central government, were loyal to Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

During the Arab spring in 2011, the Houthis had gained control of Yemen’s Saada province. However, it wasn’t until September 2014 that they conquered Sanaa. The Shiite-led rebels subsequently forced President Hadi to resign in January 2015, and seized control of swaths of southern Yemen.

The following March, a Saudi-led coalition of states launched airstrikes against the Houthis in a bid to retake Yemen. Sometime later, a Saudi-led ground operation also began. By August 2015, the Houthis had been pushed back by resistance fighters supported by the Saudi-led coalition.

As the conflict rolls onward and civilian fatalities continue to mount, criticism of Britain’s role in the Saudi-led military campaign is growing ever stronger.

January 28, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi war on Yemen violates humanitarian law: UN panel

Press TV – January 27, 2016

A UN panel of experts says Saudi Arabia’s months-long war on impoverished Yemen has violated the humanitarian law as many of the airstrikes have been carried out on civilian targets.

The UN experts have called on the UN Security Council to “investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen by all parties and to identify the perpetrators of such violations,” AFP reported on Tuesday.

The report added that Saudi warplanes had carried out 120 sorties, involving documented airstrikes on refugee camps, weddings, buses, medical facilities, residential areas, mosques, markets, factories, food warehouses, schools and airports.

“Many attacks involved multiple air strikes on multiple civilian objects,” the report further said, adding that “civilians are disproportionately affected” by the unabated aerial aggression. It also denounced Riyadh’s crippling blockade on Yemen, which constitutes “the prohibited use of starvation as a method of warfare.”

Saudi Arabia began its military aggression against Yemen in late March last year. The strikes are supposedly meant to undermine the Ansarullah movement and restore power to the fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Some 8,300 people have been killed and over 16,000 others injured since the strikes began. The Saudi war has also taken a heavy toll on Yemen’s infrastructure.

Yemenis have been carrying out retaliatory attacks on the Saudi forces deployed in the country as well as targets inside Saudi Arabia.

January 27, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Citing Terrorism Concerns, John Kerry Supports Saudi Bloodbath in Yemen

Sputnik – 25.01.2016

US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed his support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, a conflict that has killed over 2,400 civilians. As justification, the secretary reiterated false claims that Riyadh is battling al-Qaeda.

Over the weekend, the White House stated its concern over the rising civilian death toll in the Yemen conflict.

“We are deeply concerned about recent reports of escalating violence in Yemen and resulting deaths of civilians…” White House National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said in statement on Saturday.

But while the Obama administration is ostensibly worried about the amount of violence, it also fully supports the Saudi campaign that is creating the chaos. One day after the release of Price’s statement, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated his full support for Riyadh’s actions.

“Let me assure everybody that the relationship between the United States and the GCC nations ([Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council) is one that is built on mutual interest, on mutual defense and I think there is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of the countries that make up the GCC that the United States will stand with them against any external threat,” Kerry told reporters.

Kerry claimed that the war was necessary since it is partially aimed at targeting “al-Qaeda operatives.” Those motivations are highly suspect, however, given that Riyadh failed to go after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) during the first nine months of fighting.

In April, the Saudi government also looked the other way as AQAP seized the port city of al Mukalla. By gaining control of the central bank, the terrorist group gained over $17 billion from the city’s capture.

In addition, Kerry cited the need to combat Iranian “interference.”

“The United States remains concerned about some of the activities that Iran is engaged in other countries,” he told reporters.

Riyadh has provided little evidence to suggest that Tehran is providing any assistance to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Riyadh’s intervention began last March, and the Saudi naval blockade of Yemen has left approximately 1 million people internally displaced, and as many as 20 million people in need of food, water, and medical supplies.

The United Nations estimates that as many as 2,400 Yemeni civilians have been killed by coalition bombing. Most airstrikes have utilized cluster munitions sold by the United States. Worth an estimated $1.2 billion, this could partially explain Kerry’s support, but it also implicates Washington in Yemen’s civilian deaths.

“We should be culpable for the crime of killing civilians as well, as we produce and sell the weapons when we know the use they will be put to,” retired US Army Major Todd Pierce told Sputnik.

“Our indivisibility with our ‘allies’ inculpates us in their crimes…”

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Saudi-led airstrike kills family of 8, incl. Yemeni judge who presided over Pres. Hadi treason case

RT | January 25, 2016

A Houthi-appointed national security court judge and seven members of his family were killed in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in the Yemini capital Sanaa, according to local residents.

The Sunday bombing partially destroyed the home of Yahya Rubaid, a judge who had prosecuted cases against militant groups including Al-Qaeda. He had also presided over treason cases against President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and other ousted opponents of the Houthis.

Seven members of Rubaid’s family – everyone except one of his sons – were also killed in the bombing, residents told Reuters.

Supported by the US, the Saudi-led coalition has been bombing the Houthi rebels – who control Sanaa – since March 2015.

The coalition sides with exiled President Hadi, while the Houthis are aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who resigned in 2012 following a popular uprising against his rule.

Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since the bombing began in March, around half of them civilians, according to UN figures. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights told the UN Security Council in December that although all parties to the conflict were responsible, “a disproportionate amount” of attacks on civilian areas “appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by coalition forces.”

The coalition has been criticized numerous times for the way it conducts airstrikes. Earlier this month, it was blamed for hitting a hospital in the southern Bayda province, just one day after one of its missiles killed four people at a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital. The coalition was also blamed for targeting a center for the blind.

Just last week, MSF stated that hospitals in Yemen are seen as targets, noting that over 100 facilities have witnessed attacks since the Saudi-led coalition began its bombing campaign.

“People still consider hospitals a target and try to avoid them as much as possible. The only cases that we are receiving are emergencies and mass casualties following attacks,” Juan Prieto, general coordinator of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) projects in Yemen, said in a statement.

Read more:

MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi double-tap airstrike in Yemen (GRAPHIC)

January 25, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Yemen’s Plight and Britain’s “Creative Clout”

Arms Sales and Advice on Killing

By Felicity Arbuthnot | Dissident Voice | January 23, 2016

Today, I want to speak about the once-in-a-generation chance we have, together, to improve the way we enhance the cause of human rights, freedom and dignity.

— David Cameron. Speech on the European Court of Human Rights, January 25. 2012

In June of 2014, speaking in his official residence,10 Downing Street, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech on business:

“Britain has huge creative clout around the world … From Asia to America, they’re dancing to our music, watching our films and wearing our designers’ latest creations”, he trilled.

He omitted to say “and dying under our bombs.”

In December, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein warned, regarding the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen:

I have observed with extreme concern the continuation of heavy shelling from the ground and the air in areas with high a concentration of civilians as well as the perpetuation of the destruction of civilian infrastructure – in particular hospitals and schools …

Yemen’s Ministry of Education’s data shows more than 1,000 schools inoperable, 254 completely destroyed, 608 partially damaged and 421 being used as shelter by those displaced by the Saudi-led, UK-assisted onslaught. Some destroyed schools were attacked repeatedly. Thus they were not errors, or that obscene US dreamt up whitewash for atrocities: “collateral damage.” The US also supplies “intelligence” for air strikes.

Three Medecines Sans Frontier medical facilities have also been destroyed and this month the Noor Center for the Blind was hit – twice. Abdullah Ahmed Banyan, a patient, said:

People with disabilities are being struck in their residence. Around 1.30 am, two missiles hit the live-in quarters of a home for the blind. Can you imagine they are striking the blind? What is this criminality? Why? Is it the blind that are fighting the war?

As in Afghanistan and Iraq, those other favourite targets of the US, UK and their allies, wedding parties, have again become victims. One gathering in two large tents bombed last September, killed thirty eight people. Another wedding celebration attack reportedly killed one hundred and thirty. In the country’s capitol, Sanaa a wedding party hall was also destroyed – what is this criminal obsession about weddings? The Chamber of Commerce was also destroyed.

Definition of war crimes include “intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected …” and “attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives.”

None of which deters the UK from joining in. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed to Parliament that UK troops are helping the Saudi military identify targets. He said there had been “no evidence of deliberate breach of international humanitarian law.” He clearly has not bothered to do the research.

There is worse. Apart from aiding and abetting potential war crimes, the British government is profiting in eye watering sums from the human misery, deaths and destruction with arms sales to Saudi Arabia increasing by 11,000 percent in one three month period alone.

In spite of the United Nations stating that civilians are being disproportionately killed in Yemen, in just one three month period last year arms sales rose to over one Billion £s, up from a mere nine million £s from the previous three months.

The exact figure for British arms export licences from July to September 2015 was £1,066,216,510 in so-called “ML4” export licences, which relate to bombs, missiles, rockets, and components of those items.

Angus Robertson, Leader of the Scottish National Party in Parliament, is outraged, accusing during Prime Minister’s Questions this week, that:

Thousands of civilians have been killed in Yemen, including a large number by the Saudi air force and they’ve done that using British-built planes, with pilots who are trained by British instructors, dropping British-made bombs, who are coordinated by the Saudis in the presence of British military advisors.

Isn’t it time for the Prime Minister to admit that Britain is effectively taking part in a war in Yemen that is costing thousands of civilians lives and he has not sought parliamentary approval to do this? (Independent, January 20th, 2016. Emphasis added.)

Allan Hogarth for Amnesty International again confirmed that British advisors are “… actually located in the Saudi control room.”

David Cameron waffled inadequately with dismissive arrogance and supreme economy with the truth, that Britain was insuring that “… the norms of humanitarian law” were obeyed. Comments redundant.

Two days ago at Yemen’s Ras Isa port on the Red Sea, an oil storage facility was hit killing five people. The attack destroyed the part of the compound used to load tanker trucks with refined products for domestic distribution. So now a people, many of whom the UN has warned are facing near starvation, will face further shortages to cook what little they have and to heat

So much for Cameron’s vow to “improve the way we enhance the cause of human rights, freedom and dignity.”


MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi double-tap airstrike in Yemen

RT | January 22, 2016

Almost two dozen people, including civilian rescuers and an ambulance driver from an MSF-affiliated hospital, have reportedly been killed after Saudi-led coalition planes carried out repeated airstrikes on the same target in Sa’ada province, Yemen.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed the fatal air raids in Sa’ada, saying the “planes went back to bomb areas already hit.”

“An ambulance driver from an MSF hospital [was] killed,” the NGO wrote, explaining that the first responders at the scene had been trying to help those wounded in the first round of strikes.

The ambulance had just picked up the victims when a direct strike killed everyone inside it, said the director of the Jumhuriya Hospital in Sa’ada province, according to the New York Times.

Yemen’s Health Ministry has strongly condemned the coalition’s actions as a “heinous massacre” that first targeted a residential building in Sa’ada, Saba news agency reports, citing ministry spokesperson Dr. Nashwan Attab.

According to reports, at least 20 people were killed and another 35 wounded, in what the medics claim was a deliberate attack. Following the initial air raid in the Dhahyan district of Sa’ada, first responders rushed to the scene to care for the wounded. But the planes soon returned to strike again in an attempt to “completely eliminate the few remaining medical staff in the province,” Dr. Attab said.

WARNING! DISTURBING VIDEO, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

“There are still people under the rubble and it is difficult to get them as a result of targeting by Saudi aggression of paramedics and medical personnel in the region,” he added.

Earlier this week, MSF said that the Saudi coalition continues to engage civilian targets on the ground, in particular medical treatment facilities, noting that over 100 hospitals have witnessed attacks since the Saudi-led intervention began last March.

The constant bombing of health clinics in Yemen has created conditions in which locals fear for their lives and try to avoid hospitals at all costs, MSF said. The United Nations has criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen for the disproportionate number of civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure.

The UN estimates that the violence has resulted in a dramatic increase in civilian casualties, with more than 5,800 people killed in Yemen since March.

READ MORE:

Yemeni hospitals seen as targets, people ‘avoid them as much as possible’ – MSF

January 24, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven years on from Obama’s first drone strike, civilian victim describes his ordeal

Reprieve – January 23, 2016

Today marks seven years to the day since President Obama’s first drone strike in office, which he was reportedly informed afterwards had killed innocent civilians.

Faheem Qureshi, was 14 years old at the time of the strike. It killed several members of his family and left him without his left eye and severely burned.

At the time, Faheem was a high school student whose favourite subject was chemistry. Several of his cousins and uncles were killed in the strike, which Faheem survived only because he was able to drag his body far enough away that people felt it was safe to provide aid. Faheem was hospitalised for 24 days in Peshawar before he was recovered enough to leave. To this day, he still requires medical treatment for head injuries suffered in the attack.

During his time in office, President Obama has significantly expanded the CIA’s covert drone programme in Pakistan and Yemen, launching over 500 strikes in those two countries alone. He has never fully acknowledged the programme’s existence nor apologised to any of the hundreds of Yemeni and Pakistani civilians who have been killed since the drone programme began. Analysis of data by international human rights NGO Reprieve in 2014 found that 1,147 people – including women and children – were killed in attempts to target 41 men, raising serious concerns about the ‘precise’ nature of strikes.

Last year, US citizen Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were mistakenly killed in a US drone strike. For the first and only time, President Obama admitted the US’ error and publicly apologised to the families of the two men. Attempts by Pakistani and Yemeni victims to get a similar apology have been met with silence.

Speaking about his ordeal this week to international human rights organization Reprieve, Faheem Qureshi said:

“On January 23rd 2009, a hellfire missile tore my family’s lives apart as they sat down to dinner. The drone strike – President Obama’s first – killed three members of my family. As the sole survivor, I lost my left eye and suffered serious head injuries. I was only 14 years old at the time, but I can still remember as if it was yesterday the feeling of my body burning and how I had to crawl from the rubble to get help. I am told reporting has since revealed that the President was told, almost immediately, that a mistake had been made. He had killed innocent civilians – my family – in the strike.

“In the years since, I have witnessed hundreds of drone strikes in my community that have killed many more innocent civilians. People became scared to go to funerals because drones targeted them. They became scared to remove bodies from the aftermath of a drone strike in case another strike hit. The constant threat from drones dominated every minute of our lives. And yet, seven years on, President Obama will not even fully acknowledge the existence of the covert drone program. The only ‘mistakes’ he acknowledges are an American and an Italian he accidentally killed last year.

“What about the hundreds of innocent Pakistanis who have also lost their lives in drone strikes? What about my family? President Obama knows we were innocent and yet we’ve never received an explanation for why we were targeted, much less an apology. As President Obama prepares to leave the White House, he needs to bring his drone programme out of the shadows. It is past time he face up to what his drones really do and apologise to me, to my family, and to all the other innocent people who have been killed by these terrible weapons.”

Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at international human rights organization Reprieve, which investigates civilian casualties from drone strikes, said: “For seven years, secret drone strikes have been President Obama’s weapon of choice in the War on Terror. Taken covertly in places where the US is not at war, these strikes have killed and injured hundreds of innocent men, women and children just like Fahim. Yet, even as is own Generals warn how counterproductive the programme is, President Obama has refused calls for even basic transparency.

This is a legacy no president should want to leave. President Obama needs to bring a halt to this illegal and counterproductive programme. He needs to open it up to scrutiny and he needs to extend the same apology to the innocent Pakistani and Yemenis he has killed, as the one he extended to the families of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni La Porto. Fahim deserves nothing less.”

January 23, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 3 Comments

Who is Responsible for the Suffering of Yemen?

By Martin Berger – New Eastern Outlook – 22.01.2016

183323358As noted by numerous commentators on the Middle East, the situation in Yemen remains very grave. The country has been devastated by the armed conflict being waged between the Houthis and the troops of ousted President Mansour Hadi, which in turn are being heavily supported by the air forces of the so-called Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

The ongoing airstrikes claim civilians lives, leave districts in ruin, and destroy the country’s infrastructure. Earlier this month at least three people were killed in an air raid on the hospital of Doctors Without Borders in the governorate of Saada. It’s been reported that hospitals are closing their doors, unable to operate under the current circumstances.

This is not the first medical facility to be bombed in Yemen – the so-called Arab coalition has even destroyed the Center for Care and Rehabilitation of the blind in the Yemeni capital Sana’a. Moreover, the international Human Rights Watch organization reported that the coalition was using cluster bombs to destroy certain facilities in Sana’a back in January.

One should note that massive civil unrest began in Yemen in 2011 as the direct result of so-called the Arab Spring, orchestrated by the US and its allies. In 2014, Shia tribesmen that are known today as the Houthis started fighting government forces and consequently managed to capture a significant part of the country due to the massive support that was shown for them by the Yemeni population. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched its first airstrikes against the Houthis, which were, according to various human rights organizations, badly coordinated and resulted in massive civilian casualties.

Concerned by the grave state of affairs in Yemen, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein announced at a meeting of the UN Security Council back in December that it is the so-called Arab coalition that is responsible for the absolute majority of attacks on residential areas and civilian targets in Yemen. According to Reuters, the UN High Commissioner announced that he:

“observed with extreme concern heavy shelling from the ground and air in areas of Yemen with a high concentration of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools.”

It is curious to note that in pursuit of its criminal goals in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has been using weapons that were bought from the UK in 2012. Moreover, it keeps on restocking its supply of deadly British-made weapons. For this reason, at the end of last year, leading British diplomats and lawyers warned David Cameron that he was running the risk of facing an international tribunal for war crimes due to the fact that the weapons that his government supplies to Saudi Arabia are being extensively used against civilian targets in Yemen.

According to The Independent :

“Advisers to Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, have stepped up legal warnings that the sale of specialist missiles to the Saudis, deployed throughout nine months of almost daily bombing raids in west Yemen against Houthi rebels, may breach international humanitarian law…

… thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed, with schools, hospitals and non-military infrastructure hit. Fuel and food shortages, according to the United Nations, have brought near famine to many parts of the country.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other NGOs, claim there is no doubt that weapons supplied by the UK and the United States have hit Yemeni civilian targets. One senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) legal adviser told The Independent: “The Foreign Secretary has acknowledged that some weapons supplied by the UK have been used by the Saudis in Yemen. Are our reassurances correct – that such sales are within international arms treaty rules? The answer is, sadly, not at all clear.”

Yet, The Guardian notes that Saferworld and Amnesty released a legal opinion from Professor Philippe Sands QC and a number of other lawyers, according to which the sales of British arms to Saudi Arabia in the light of its military intervention and bombing of Yemen violate national, European and international laws. The lawyers are pointing out that in the period of 9 months before July 2015 the UK supplied 9 million pounds worth of rockets and bombs, while in the next three months this number hit a staggering one billion pounds. Additionally, there’s clear evidence that those weapons were used against hospitals, schools, markets, warehouses, ports, and camps for displaced persons, turning Yemen into a nightmare. The Saferworld human rights organization is convinced that there’s a direct link between the increase in sales of ammunition and bombings in Yemen.

Many British observers, including those from The Guardian, have been pointing out that days after David Cameron’s statements about his attempt to “initiate a political process in Yemen,” and remarks that “there could be no military solution in Yemen,” the data released by the government showed that UK officials approved the sale of a billion pounds worth of bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Under these circumstances the only natural question is: Will international human rights organizations and the international community as a whole, all those who failed to say a resounding “NO” to Western military interventions in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, that were only profitable for arms sellers, carry on watching silently the destruction of Yemen? How many Yemenis do we need to see die before we start solving conflicts within a political framework? How many lives should be spared? Do we ever bring to justice those responsible for such massacres? Or will we rather allow politicians, the likes of Cameron, to call for peace, while selling huge amounts of deadly weapons behind our backs with impunity?

Martin Berger is a Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst.

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi double-tap airstrike in Yemen

RT | January 22, 2016

Almost two dozen people, including civilian rescuers and an ambulance driver from an MSF-affiliated hospital, have reportedly been killed after Saudi-led coalition planes carried out repeated airstrikes on the same target in Sa’ada province, Yemen.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed the fatal air raids in Sa’ada, saying the “planes went back to bomb areas already hit.”

“An ambulance driver from an MSF hospital [was] killed,” the NGO wrote, explaining that the first responders at the scene had been trying to help those wounded in the first round of strikes.

The ambulance had just picked up the victims when a direct strike killed everyone inside it, said the director of the Jumhuriya Hospital in Sa’ada province, according to the New York Times.

Yemen’s Health Ministry has strongly condemned the coalition’s actions as a “heinous massacre” that first targeted a residential building in Sa’ada, Saba news agency reports, citing ministry spokesperson Dr. Nashwan Attab.

According to reports, at least 20 people were killed and another 35 wounded, in what the medics claim was a deliberate attack. Following the initial air raid in the Dhahyan district of Sa’ada, first responders rushed to the scene to care for the wounded. But the planes soon returned to strike again in an attempt to “completely eliminate the few remaining medical staff in the province,” Dr. Attab said.

WARNING! DISTURBING VIDEO, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

“There are still people under the rubble and it is difficult to get them as a result of targeting by Saudi aggression of paramedics and medical personnel in the region,” he added.

Earlier this week, MSF said that the Saudi coalition continues to engage civilian targets on the ground, in particular medical treatment facilities, noting that over 100 hospitals have witnessed attacks since the Saudi-led intervention began last March.

The constant bombing of health clinics in Yemen has created conditions in which locals fear for their lives and try to avoid hospitals at all costs, MSF said. The United Nations has criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen for the disproportionate number of civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure.

The UN estimates that the violence has resulted in a dramatic increase in civilian casualties, with more than 5,800 people killed in Yemen since March.

READ MORE:

Yemeni hospitals seen as targets, people ‘avoid them as much as possible’ – MSF

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

At Least 26 Dead After Saudi-Led Airstrikes Hit Sanaa Police Headquarters

Press TV – January 18, 2016

Dozens of people have been killed in a series of air raids by Saudi Arabia on police buildings in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a as well as other areas across the war-torn Arab state.

Medical sources and police said on Monday that the overnight air strikes hit a local police building and the headquarters of the traffic police in the Yemeni capital, killing at least 26 people and injuring scores more.

Saudi fighter jets also targeted several locations in the southern province of Ta’izz, with reports suggesting that three civilians were killed in an air raid on a house in Dhubab district.

Similar assaults were also reported on schools in the same area, with no immediate account available on the potential casualties.

Saudis also targeted a livestock unit in the northwestern coastal province of Hudaydah, inflicting heavy losses on the facility, which was described by the local sources as one of the biggest producers of dairy products in Yemen.

Yemen’s al-Masirah TV said Saudi warplanes also carried out attacks in the western province of Amran, while residential areas also came under attack in the northern province of Jawf.

Saudi Arabia says its military campaign, which started on March 26, is meant to undermine the Ansarlluah movement and restore power to the fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Yemenis say, however, that the attacks are aimed at destroying Yemen’s wealth and fragile infrastructure.

More than 7,500 people have been killed in more than nine months of incessant air strikes, while millions more are reported to have been stranded across the country.

January 18, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,189 other followers