Western countries may be complicit in Yemen war crimes: UN report

Yemen War: How western countries could be complicit in the suffering

Violence has rocked Yemen for years, creating what is often referred to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

According to one database tracking the carnage, the country’s civil war has killed at least 91,600 people so far. 

While countries around the world have voiced concern, routinely condemning the violence, a new report released by the United Nations found that several of those nations may actually be “complicit” in Yemen war crimes.

READ MORE: Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, explained in 2 charts

The United Nations Human Rights report, titled “Situation of human rights in Yemen, including violations and abuses since September 2014,” pointed directly to Britain, United States and France for arming and providing intelligence and logistics support to a Saudi-led coalition that starves civilians as a war tactic.

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“States may be held responsible for providing aid or assistance for the commission of international law violations if the conditions for complicity are fulfilled,” the report read. “States are obliged to take all reasonable measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by other States.”

The UN investigators recommended that all states impose a ban on arms transfers to the warring parties to prevent them from being used to commit serious violations.

Melissa Parke, who is part of the UN’s Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen and helped produce the report, told Global News that while Canada isn’t mentioned directly in the report, it is included in the findings.

“We named states who are well-known for having an influence over the parties to the conflict,” Parke explained. “But, of course, there are other countries such as Canada and my own country of Australia, which are also dealing with the parties.”

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Parke noted that Canada, Australia, France and U.K. are signatories of the Arms Trade Treaty and have an even greater responsibility to be “transparent and to be accountable when it comes to the supply of weapons.”

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The Arms Trade Treaty prohibits the transfer of arms to another country if they will be used for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

Canada has faced international criticism over its $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia to sell light armoured vehicles.

Calls for the deal to be revoked, which increased after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, led to the launch of a review of the contract.

At the time, that government also halted all new export permits to the kingdom and sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals.

However, months after that review was launched, Liberals have yet to announce any changes to the contract.

READ MORE: ‘The poor get nothing’: In Yemen, corruption keeps food and aid from reaching those in need

However, data shows that over the first six months of 2019, Canada has sold $1.2 billion worth of “tanks and other motorized armoured fighting vehicles (including parts)” to the kingdom.

Canadian officials have skirted questions on when the review of the contract will be concluded.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most recent comments on the arms deal came during an appearance on Netflix’s The Patriot Act in August, when host Hasan Minhaj asked why Canada has not made a decision on the deal yet.

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“We take our legal responsibilities and the breaking of contracts very seriously in this country,” Trudeau said.

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More recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was also asked about the timeline of the review at a press conference in Waterloo, Ont.

Freeland reiterated that since the murder of Khashoggi, no new arms export permits with Saudi Arabia have been signed.

“On the war in Yemen, I very much share the concerns expressed by Canadian NGOs and expressed most recently by a UN panel, this truly is a humanitarian disaster,” Freeland told reporters last Thursday.

The minister did not address when Canadians can expect the review to be completed.

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War crimes and the situation in Yemen

The UN experts working on the war crimes report also compiled a secret list of suspected war criminals. Investigators found potential crimes on both sides of the conflict.

Panel chair Kamel Jendoubi declined to reveal details of the list of suspects, adding: “What is sure is that we have gathered sufficient facts and sufficient testimonies that would allow us to bring those individuals to justice at a later stage.”

“There are no clean hands in this combat, in this contest,” panelist Charles Garraway said.

In a press release, Jendoubi added actions of western countries and other individuals have enabled violence in Yemen.

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“Five years into the conflict, violations against Yemeni civilians continue unabated, with total disregard for the plight of the people and a lack of international action to hold parties to the conflict accountable,” he said.

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The report calls on those countries and international organizations to “promote and support” all efforts to achieve a solution to the Yemen conflict.

Meanwhile, the conflict goes on.

According to an April report released by the UN, if the Yemen crisis were to end in 2019 it would be responsible for 233,000 deaths. That includes 102,000 combat killings and 131,000 indirect deaths due to lack of food, health care and infrastructure.

The conflict would also account for one child dying in Yemen every 11 minutes this year.

In total, that would mean 140,000 children were killed by the war.

— With files from Global News reporter Emanuela Campanella, The Canadian Press and Reuters

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