Civilian casualties were reported yet again in Yemen on September 10, with more than 20 people falling victims of Saudi airstrikes. It should be recalled that the coalition led by Saudi Arabia has repeatedly attacked civilian targets in Yemen, hitting residential areas with cluster bombs and routinely attacking hospitals. For instance, the hospitals run by by Doctors without Borders were subjected to a number of severe bombardments, just like local weddings that usually attract a lot of people in Yemen.
The human rights organization Oxfam that has been operating in Yemen for several years time and time again stressed the fact that the Saudi intervention plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis. The eighteen months long armed conflict that has already claimed the lives of 6.5 thousand people left more than 30 thousand were heavily injured. Today, a total of 14.5 million Yemenis are in dire need of food and drinking water, yet the coalition led by Saudi Arabia is desperate to prevent the seizure of the country by the Houthis-led resistance that is already in control of the better part of Yemen, including its capital – Sana’a.
In late August, Oxfam announced that the UK Cabinet has been violating the Arms Trade Treaty by carrying on arms shipments to Riyadh for the last five years that allow Saudi Air Force to carry on its bombing campaign in Yemen. This human rights organization is convinced that the continuous sales of arms to Saudi Arabia prolong the war that has already produced more than 2.8 refugees.
Oxfam argues that the UK has switched from being an “enthusiastic backer” of the Arms Trade Treaty to “one of the most significant violators”. Only last year, the British government approved 4 billion dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. In comparison, the United States approved 5 billion dollars worth and France almost 18 billion. The Arms Trade Treaty adopted in 2014 sets a set of standards for arms exports, including the prohibition of exports of conventional arms in violation of the existing embargos and sanctions, while banning those sales that can result in acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and acts of terrorism.
However, Oxfam is not the only one to object to the fact that Western countries supply weapons en mass to Saudi Arabia, which results in the mounting tensions in the Middle East and massive civilian casualties in Yemen.
At the second Second Conference of States Parties of the Arms Trade Treaty, which opened in late August in Geneva, human rights activists have accused Paris of exporting arms to the states that are using those against civilians. The Arms Trade Treaty was introduced in late 2014 and was immediately signed by 130 states, that announced their commitment to the cause of prevention of new war crimes being carried out across the globe in violation of human rights.
The Control Arms organization has recently condemned the United States, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other European countries that are providing all sorts of weapons to the Saudi-led coalition. According to its reports Paris authorized the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia worth 16 billion euros in 2015, but these rifles, armored personnel carriers and bombs kill civilians.
The Mediapart journal has made it its mission to investigate the details of the report that was presented at the Second Conference of States Parties of the Arms Trade Treaty on the use of French military equipment against civilians. The journal would note:
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Kuwait earlier this month to sign a contract for the sale of 30 French helicopters worth more than one billion euros. In 2015, Qatar clinched a 6.3-billion-euro deal with Paris to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets.
Aymeric Elluin, an arms and international law expert from Amnesty International, says that the organization has been trying to attract the international community’s attention to the events in Yemen for several months. He believes that the coalition should be brought to the International Criminal Court and charged with the crimes it committed in Yemen. According to Aymeric Elluin, hospitals, schools, mosques constitute the primary targets for those weapons that were purchased from France. For example, the United Arab Emirates use dozens of the French-made Leclerc tanks in its operations on the ground. The information was confirmed by Stephane Mayer, head of the defense company Nexter Systems, when he was giving a speech at a hearing in French National Assembly last March.
Experts predict that with the expansion of conflict zones acros the world the volume of weapons sold could reach the volume of 100 billion euros. This means that not only in Yemen, but also in other countries the blood of innocent civilians will be spit due the ever growing greed of the Western military contractors, since they do only care about their profits, paying no heed to some poor folks dying every day in far away countries.
It seems it’s high time to force those arms sellers into answering for every drop of innocent blood shed on their part by assembling an international tribunal that will investigate every separate case of unlawful violence.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”