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Saudi Arabia: Exercising ‘Maximum Degree of Care’ to Kill Children in Yemen

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Oct , 7\ NewNews

The Saudis are free to complain for winding up on the UN blacklist for violence against children in warzones related to their attacks on Yemen. But they are wrong to assume they can once again browbeat the UN to be removed from the list.

The United Nations should be commended for having the courage to once again blacklist Saudi Arabia over murdering innocent children in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition is responsible for at least 683 child casualties in 2016 alone, and that’s according to the new UN report. The Saudis can offer no evidence to the contrary:

1- Saudi Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi insists that Saudi warplanes exercise the “maximum degree of care,” which is a claim that is unlikely to convince anybody. Since attacking Yemen in 2015, the Saudis have been implicated in a massive number of civilian deaths in deliberate airstrikes against populated areas. Deliberate attacks against schools, oftentimes repeatedly hitting the same schools multiple times, underscores the risk children are still under during the air war.

2- It was this same sort of “maximum care” that landed the Saudis on the same list last year, though after browbeating the UN for a few days they were temporarily removed, pending an investigation. There’s no sign the investigation ever happened. Saudi threats to defund the UN, and support from the US, got them off that list last year. It remains to be seen if they will be able to pull that same trick again a year later, after countless more deaths and countless more reports on reckless targeting.

3- The response from the international community to attacks on civilians has been vague and inconsistent. This has direct implications for the Yemeni population and for the broader normative agenda around the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The international norms that exist today to protect civilians cannot persist without the continuous support of the international community.

4- The lack of condemnation from the UN Security Council, the United States and the European Union member states is undermining the protection of civilians in the armed conflict norm. Saudi Arabia and its allies are obligated under International Humanitarian Law not to deliberately target or unduly risk harm to civilians. This obligation originates from the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

5- The Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have violated International Humanitarian Law and the Security Council cannot limit its press statements to calling on the warmongers to comply and minimize harm to civilians either. The Security Council has to acknowledge that the protection of civilians norm has already been violated.

6- All the problems Yemen is now experiencing have a common cause – imperialism – whether it is the legacy of British imperialism in the south, or the current interventionist policy of the US and Saudi Arabia. As with the rest of the Middle East, so long as the Yemeni people are given no control over their own country, their economy and, particularly, their oil, the situation in this country can only go from bad to worse.

7- The US has actively assisted the Saudi coalition with logistical support, intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, air refueling and the delivery of weapons. As such, they are considered a party to the conflict and thereby co-responsible for Saudi war crimes.

8- Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia’s leadership seems intent on continuing its unjustified war despite the lack of progress and the extraordinary suffering and damage caused by the war. In the long-term, the precedence of this case may lead other states to disregard the protection of civilians norm, thus risking a rollback of the normative progress in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. This would be a profound loss given it took years to develop this norm.

In the prevailing environment, a UN Security Council resolution firmly demanding observance of the ceasefire by the Saudi-led coalition would be a good statement of intent in light of the new blacklist. Such a move would make public what has been known for some time, despite continued support from the US and NATO to the Saudi war effort: Yemen’s war cannot be won by the hegemonic powers and prolonging it will only deepen the human suffering it has already caused.

In an increasingly multi-polar world and the rise of new military interveners such as Saudi Arabia, the blacklisting by the UN is not sufficient to secure the future for the protection of civilians norm. In this new landscape, it appears a new strategy is needed at the UN to maintain and strengthen the normative agenda, to ensure the protection of civilians, and ultimately to end the unnecessary conflict.

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