AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL VS. BORIS JOHNSON

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Amnesty International:

The airstrike on Abs Rural Hospital in Yemen’s Hajjah governorate on 15 August was the fourth attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in 10 months . . . At the site of the ruined hospital, Amnesty International identified remnants of bombs that appear to have been manufactured either in the USA or the UK

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in airstrikes while asleep in their homes, when going about their daily activities, or in the very places where they had sought refuge from the conflict

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Just two days before the attack on Abs Hospital, 10 children were reportedly killed and 28 injured when their school was bombed in Sa’da. There is nowhere that children can feel safe; they make up a third of the 3,799 civilians killed in Yemen since the coalition campaign began in March 2015

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented more than 70 unlawful coalition airstrikes, some of which may amount to war crimes, that have killed at least 930 civilians and deliberately targeted civilians

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Coalition forces bombed a residential compound … in the south-western port city of Mokha…, killing at least 63 civilians and injuring 50 others. . . . One resident, Amal Sabri, described the incident as “something out of judgement day. Corpses and heads scattered, engulfed by fire and ashes”. According to residents and plant workers, at least six consecutive strikes pounded the housing compound . . . Amnesty International delegates at the site found no evidence that residential compounds were being used for any military purposes.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Some markets were attacked repeatedly in separate occasions, at times of day when many civilians were present. . . . Amnesty found no evidence that the markets had been used for military purposes.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

[R]esearchers investigated an attack on al-Zahra School, north east of Sa’da’s city centre. At the school, researchers found no evidence to indicate that the school had been used for military purposes. Residents in the area told Amnesty International that the school was bombed hours after a load of grain had been unloaded there.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

[Coalition] forces attacked and extensively damaged key civilian infrastructure in and around the city [of Sa’da], including water and electricity installations, communications towers, government buildings in the center of town, a television station, the court and prosecutor general’s office, finance offices, passport offices, the post office, agriculture bank, a sewing and literacy organization, petrol stations, seven markets and the main trading/shopping street in the city. . . . Amnesty International found no evidence of any military activity [at these sites]. . . . [T]hese attacks appear to have been aimed at inflicting a form of collective punishment on the population of Sa’da governate.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Repeated coalition airstrikes on factories and other civilian economic structures have raised serious concerns that the coalition has deliberately sought to inflict widespread damage to Yemen’s production capacity and contributed to the shortages of food, medicine and other critical needs of Yemen’s civilians, of whom more than 20 million are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. [Cf. Human Rights Watch, July 2016]

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

[F]ive strikes that took place between August and October 2015 . . . appear to have directly targeted schools. These strikes killed five and injured at least 14 civilians, including four children. . . . Amnesty International . . . found no evidence indicating that the schools that appeared to be targeted had been used for military purposes

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

On the morning of 8 June, a coalition forces airstrike on a farm in Beni Ma’ath, a rural area north-west of Sa’da city, killed three children and two pregnant women, as well as injuring two children and a 61-year-old man from the Halhal family. The strikes created a 10-meter wide crater . . . Amnesty International found no evidence of military activities around the house . . . Ammar Mohammed Halhal, a 28-year-old farmer and father of four who survived the attack . . ., told Amnesty International: “I don’t know why they bombed us. We are just simple farmers, we grow qat and vegetables. We are poor and spend our time working to eke a living for our families. They killed us for no reason. My wife, Nabila Ali and my little girl Fatime, my bothers Saqar and Abdullatif, who are both two years old, and my stepmother Safia Ghaleb were all killed. My wife and my stepmother were both in the last month of their pregnancies. . . . The bombs were so powerful that we were blown far from the house. It took four days to find the body of little Abdullatif; he had been blown more than 50 meters away.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also documented the coalition’s use of at least seven different types of internationally banned cluster munitions in at least 19 attacks, including in civilian areas

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Amnesty International found evidence of US, UK and Brazilian cluster munitions used by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces. The use of cluster bombs is banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to which the UK is a State Party.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

Amnesty International’s most recent mission confirmed, for the first time, that coalition forces have used UK-manufactured BL-755 cluster munitions in Yemen

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International:

In a statement to the [Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty] . . . on 23 August, the UK delegation urged other States Parties to “redress practices that fall short of the treaty’s ideals” and to be willing to accept criticism of their conduct. The hypocrisy of this call is astounding, coming after nearly three weeks of renewed horror for Yemeni civilians, again the victims of indiscriminate attacks by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition which is replete with UK-made weapons, including munitions and military aircraft 

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

We don’t think there are breaches of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, et al.:

We urge . . . an international, independent investigation into civilian deaths and injuries in Yemen

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson:

I don’t happen to think that is the way forward

Amnesty International:

The refusal of Saudi Arabia’s main arms suppliers to engage in any kind of public debate about what is happening in Yemen is shameful. Blunt denials, vague platitudes, or just plain silence are becoming the standard responses to reams of credible information on how the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are using those arms to commit serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Photos of munitions of the type being sold by the UK to Saudi Arabia in the vicinity of bleeding toddlers and houses flattened into tombs are not considered important enough to prompt even a brief public statement from the UK.

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The UK is an arms supplier to Saudi Arabia. According to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, former Prime Minister David Cameron presided over ‘the sale of more than $9 billion worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, including nearly $4 billion since airstrikes on Yemen began’. (Even this pales beside US President Barack Obama’s legacy: his administration ‘has facilitated more than $115 billion in 42 different arms sales to Saudi Arabia, more than any other US administration’.)

HRW has reported that, of all its meetings with Saudi Arabia’s allies to pressure them to stop the abuses, ‘the most frustrating have been those with UK officials’. As hundreds after hundreds of civilians have been burned and torn to shreds, as entire towns have been systematically laid waste, as Yemen starves, the UK Government has persistently responded to reports of human rights abuses in Yemen with apologetics and flat denial. Failing to rise to the level of most Holocaust deniers, the UK Government typically declines even to marshal an argument to defend its position. Thus, two weeks after the publication of a major Amnesty International report documenting the commission of war crimes by the Saudi-led coalition in the course of its air campaign in northern Yemen, the UK Government professed,

If there are human rights violations, they must absolutely be looked into, but I am not aware of any such evidence at the moment. We need to be careful about hearsay. If NGOs have evidence, they must bring it forward.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for a comprehensive embargo on arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and an independent international inquiry into abuses committed in Yemen.

One comment

  1. […] week, MPs voted against an independent inquiry into prima facie war crimes perpetrated by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen, and against suspending UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending the results of said […]

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