The crisis in Yemen continues to worsen as the Saudi-led coalition forces and Houthi rebels blatantly disregard the damage being inflicted on innocent Yemeni civilians. Famine and disease have spread through the country unchecked, due in large part to a Saudi-imposed blockade on air and sea ports that has resulted in a desperate shortage of food, humanitarian aid, and medical supplies. The United Nations has renewed demands for combatants to allow unconditional humanitarian access to all parts of the country.
Saudi-led coalition allies repeatedly have hindered the movement of aid and commercial goods to the population. Huthi/Saleh [forces in Taiz]… routinely interfere with the work of humanitarians, at times demanding the diversion of aid to themselves or denying aid workers access to populations in need. (International Crisis Group)
The human cost of the two-year-old conflict is horrific. At least 8,000 civilian deaths and 45,000 injuries were reported by the middle of 2017, though it is suspected that the real figures are much higher. A recent draft UN report alleges that the Saudi coalition was responsible for more than 680 child casualties in 2016. A devastating cholera outbreak, the most recent consequence of the fighting, has thus far afflicted over 500,000 people and resulted in almost 2,000 deaths. This outbreak is being exacerbated, and potentially even strategically exploited, by the coalition forces. Meanwhile, 17 million people are experiencing food insecurity and nearly 15 million lack access to basic healthcare services.
The innocent people of Yemen are trapped within a complex network of different national, regional and international competing vested interests, resulting in violent and deadly outcomes for which they alone suffer… Only bold leadership from the players in this conflict, both home and abroad, can [end the total ambivalence to human tragedy] – indeed it is their moral, and legal, responsibility to do so. (Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General for CARE International)
As the situation deteriorates, an effective international response is desperately needed. To date, there has been a widespread failure on the part of the international community to substantively address the crisis, which is unfolding in plain view and in which combatants are demonstrably violating the rules of international law. Indiscriminate air strikes, imprecise weapons used in residential areas, and the use of cluster munitions are but a few of the atrocities being perpetrated on both sides of the conflict. Significant pressure needs to be put on Saudi Arabia to de-escalate the situation and bring an end to civilian suffering.
The UN Security Council should take prompt action to rejuvenate the political track by passing a long-overdue new resolution under its mandatory Chapter VII authority demanding an immediate ceasefire, unfettered humanitarian access and a return to talks based on the existing UN roadmap, which requires compromises from both sides. (International Crisis Group)
In such a context of lawlessness and abuse, there is an urgent need for truth, accountability and justice for victims of the conflict. Given the apparent inadequacies of Saudi Arabia and Yemen-led investigations to date, Amnesty International believes the only way to achieve this is through the establishment of a UN-led independent international investigation to look into alleged violations by all parties. (Amnesty International)
It is in this context that we must once again highlight the unconscionable decision by the Canadian government to continue moving forward with the $15 billion Saudi arms deal. Simply put, Canada cannot export weapons to Saudi Arabia without being complicit in the gross violations of human rights being perpetrated by Saudi forces. In addition to Canada taking a more active diplomatic role in resolving the Yemen conflict, it is absolutely critical that this arms deal is cancelled and that Bill-C47 ensures an acceptably high standard for Canadian arms exports moving forward.
Photo credit: Wikimedia.