Speech at UNHRC, Genève, September 15th, 2017

By Roland Hedayat, chairman “YemenSolidaritet”, Sweden

1 Human Rights in Yemen

I will talk about the Human Rights situation in Yemen in the context of the war imposed on that country.

This inevitably leads to looking closer at the role and responsibility of the “International Community” (UNSC) for the actual catastrophic situation in Yemen.

2 The First and Second Casualties of War

If, as claimed by the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus – “In war, truth is the first casualty”,

Then the second casualty of war must be the Universal Human Rights.

The war of aggression against the people of Yemen has transformed the Human Rights of its people into a distant dream, but which in the daily life is reduced to a collection of wishful thoughts without any practical significance.

The most fundamental human rights have become targets of destruction:

  • The right to food security – while bombing farm lands and food storage facilities
  • The right to medical care – while bombing the hospitals and primary health care centres…
  • The right to education – while bombing the schools and universities…

And so forth. Violations of the Human Rights have become the norm and not the exception due to the war of aggression.

Even the most basic of all human rights, as formulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 is trampled upon on a daily basis:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”.

Without this right, all other “rights” become irrelevant.

3 Two and a half years of relentless Aggression

Since two and a half years, Yemen – one of the world’s poorest countries, with a population of about 26 million and covering a surface roughly that of France, has been the target of a military air, land and sea campaign mostly directed against the civilian population.

During these two and a half years, civilians as well as civilian facilities and infrastructure have been relentlessly bombed: Wedding parties, funeral ceremonies, bridges, power stations, sewage facilities, factories, hospitals and primary health care centres, food and fuel stocks, agricultural fields and farms sports arenas,as well as Yemen’s unique world heritage.

The main culprits are among the world’s richest countries. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both members of this HR Council, are leading a “coalition of the willing” consisting of other GCC countries (Oman excluded) and some fellow Arab states which might have been “persuaded” by the gang leaders, awash with petro dollars. The US and the UK have actively participated in the war and have also contributed with massive arms sales to the aggressors. Other EU/NATO countries have been silent accomplices, many of which have been actively supplying arms to the aggressors. Sweden is one of these countries.

The aggressors take assistance from hordes of mercenaries from various corners of the world in their sinister project. Also to their help they have AQAP, the Al-Qaeda outlet of Yemen, immensely thriving in this recruitment friendly environment, and at multiple occasions fighting alongside the “coalition of the willing”.

On top of this, courtesy of the “International Community” – I shall get back to this – a marine blockade has been imposed on the country. The purpose is allegedly to impose an arms embargo onto one of the sides in the conflict, but in practice this embargo functions as a blockade of food and emergency aid to the country and is the main reason for the famine ravaging Yemen.

3.1 The devastating Result

As a result of the bombing and the naval blockade, an appalling catastrophe is unravelling in Yemen, this ancient country, culture and people of the Southern Arabic Peninsula.

  • According to the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) the humanitarian crisis of Yemen is now the World’s single largest one.
  • 17 millions live in food insecurity, of which 7M are facing famine
  • Breakdown of health care services and access to clean water has lead to the world’s largest cholera epidemic

    In just three months, in one of the world’s largest outbreaks of cholera in the past 50 years, an estimated 2,000 people have been killed, and more than a half million infected by the disease.

  • Destruction of Past, i.e. World heritage from one of the world’s most ancient cultures
  • Destruction of Future, i.e. Child famine, Education, Health Care
  • Massive destruction of Yemen’s infrastructure

In short: An crime against humanity is unfolding in Yemen right before our eyes!

4 Why the Saudi/US/UK rage against Yemen?

What had the Yemenis done to Saudi Arabia and its partners to provoke such wild wrath and destructive barbarity? Basically nothing at all, but the Saudis consider Yemen as their own backyard.

Yemeni claims to sovereignty are not acceptable. Even worse, manifestations of democracy by the Yemeni people and its leadership are very threatening for the Saudis, as it could have a spill over effect on its own people, shaking the foundations of their cleptocrat dynasty.

So their sin was that they had ousted ex-interim president Hadi, a pro Saudi stooge clinging to power that formally had expired and which from the outset was provisional in nature. Hadi had exposed himself as a person lacking the necessary integrity, credibility and legitimacy for taking the country out of its actual period of political turmoil. He was was evicted when he didn’t deliver on the provisions upon which his interim presidency was conditioned, such as setting up elections.

Hadi soon went into exile in Riyadh, from where he requested from the Saudis to bomb him back to his illegitimate presidency, which they more than willingly did, as we have seen. Hadi and his entourage in Riyadh is what the Saudis and the West (and of course, Main Stream Media) calls “the internationally recognised government of Yemen”.

It is a well established fact that the US and the UK have been aiding and abetting in Saudi Arabia’s destructive designs in Yemen since the very start of the conflict and even before. They have the same problem with an independent Yemen as the Saudis have, and much for the same reasons.

In addition, their huge arms exports to SA and other petro-dynasties serve the double purpose of reaping immense profits for the mighty agents of the “deep state” and the “military industrial complex” and for the redistribution of arms to terrorist groups, whenever these can be used as “assets” for their geopolitical imperial designs.

The remaining Western countries are either hapless bystanders or discrete arms exporters to the aggressors, like the case of Sweden.

5 UNSC Res. #2216 – Collapse of basic Principles of International Law

On April 14Th 2015, the UNSC unanimously adopted (except for the Russian Federation, which abstained) Resolution #2216 on Yemen. By then, the Saudi-led bombing campaign had lasted for three weeks, without any UN mandate. It had already led to the killing of more than 800 civilians, among them many children, as well as to immense destruction of civilian targets and was therefore in breach of International Humanitarian Law. The attack was unprovoked, and without UNSC authorisation. It thus constituted a clear cut breach of International Law as well.

The resolution text was presented by Jordan, a member of the Saudi-Led aggression-coalition, thus a party in the conflict. The resolution put the entire blame for the conflict on the Houthis, and placed an arms embargo upon them. A travel ban and economical sanctions were also imposed against two Houthi leaders as well as against ex-president Saleh. On the other hand, no reference to the ongoing bombing campaign against Yemen was made. An ongoing war crime in relation to the subject being discussed was conspicuously ignored!

In a comment to the recently adopted resolution, the US envoy to the UNSC, Ms. Samantha Power, avoided reference to the bombing campaign, but stated in regards to the imposition of a global asset freeze upon certain actors that it

…shows that the Security Council will take action against those who continue to undermine efforts towards reconciliation”.

Furthermore she said:

… the resolution affirms that all parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, and it urges all parties to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in need…”

Finally she said that there is no alternative to political negotiations and a consensus agreement among all political parties based on the GCC initiative and Yemen’s national Dialogue Conference.

These words were uttered while it was out in plain daylight that her government was fully involved in the Saudi-Led “Operation Decisive Storm” with armaments, refuelling services of bomber jets, logistics and intelligence support as well as military help in enforcing the naval blockade. In other words, Samantha Power gave a dual message: One of Peace and Dialogue to the UNSC and the World, and one of Death and Destruction to the Yemeni people.

The “legitimate” Yemeni representative to the UNSC, Mr. Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany expressed, “on behalf of the Yemenis”, his gratitude towards the GCC countries, the Security Council, and to the King of Saudi Arabia in particular.

Taking into account the inferno that the bombing campaign had inflicted on the Yemeni people, one should rest assured that these words made a strong contribution to the legitimacy of the Hadi regime. They certainly went directly to the “hearts and minds” of the Yemenis, sadly contemplating the piles of rubble that many of the Yemeni cities had been reduced to by the Saudi “saviours”.

What is wrong with #2216? First of all, Blatant disregard for the UN Charter!

  • The resolution text is totally biased, presented by one of the warring parties
  • It does not mention, much less condemn the illegal attack on Yemen since 3 weeks
  • Shows total disregard of Yemen’s sovereignty, in contravention of the Charter Article 2 (1):

    • The Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

    Furthermore, all the remaining paragraphs in Article 2 underscores the fundamental principles of equality, sovereignty and their implications. Res. #2216 makes a total mockery of the entire Art. 2 of the UN Charter.

  • Incorrect referral to Chapter VII, since Yemen posed no threat to any other nation. Chapter VII should instead have been invoked with regards to the actions of the “Coalition” who were the one and only party which had attacked another sovereign country without UNSC authorisation.
  • In contravention of the prohibition of unnecessary use of violence in a conflict between nations
  • UNSC has no jurisdiction to reinstate presidents…
  • Disregard for the illegitimacy of the current presidency

The UNSC Resolution #2216 served as a green light for the Saudi-Led coalition to proceed with the onslaught on Yemen. The arms embargo against the “Houthis” has been used as a pretext for taking the civilian population as hostage in yet another way: It has been enforced by means of a naval blockade which, as an intended side effect, drastically hampers the vital supply of food and humanitarian aid. The UNSC Resolution #2216 has thus served as, and continues to serve as, a catalyst of the catastrophically deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen.

The UNSC “Resolution #2216” will go to the History of the UN as one of the absolute low water marks of that organisation. On one hand one makes use of Chapter VII of the Charter against one and only one side in a complicated civil conflict, enforcing an arms embargo only against that side. On the other hand, total silence is observed regarding a – since several weeks – ongoing bombing campaign of intervention by the Saudi-Led coalition, and the massive casualties and horrors that this has incurred on the civilian population. This implied a UN “Carte Blanche” for a continued massacre of the Yemeni civilian population. Unfortunately, the UNSC “Resolution of Shame” #2216 will take the UNSC another step towards irrelevance as representative for “the international Community”.

The UNSC Resolution #2216 laid the groundwork for creating a deceitful Narrative. This resolution has been a disaster for Yemen by confounding victim and aggressor, and by giving the aggressor free reins in the savage destruction of Yemen.

6 The UN – repeatedly blackmailed into repent

The tragic role of the UN with regards to Yemen is not confined to the Security Council.

Last year, the UN chief Ban Ki-Moon backtracked on a decision to put the Saudi-led coalition on a black list of groups killing and maiming children, following a report on the Saudi-Led war on children in Yemen. The reason for the reversal was a massive lobbying campaign and threats of defunding various UN projects, most notably that of aid to Palestinian refugees through the UNRWA.

As early as 2015, the Saudis, with the tacit help from the U.S. sank a proposed independent probe into alleged war crimes in Yemen. As a result of lack of support from its Western parties the investigation was dropped in favour of a Saudi proposal, essentially consisting of the suspected culprit investigating himself!

Recently, the same story repeated itself. Netherland presented a draft resolution calling for an intrusive prope into human rights violations as a result of the war. After stiff resistance from the perpetrators themselves a watered down resolution was accepted. This will probably end up with an even handed condemnation of “all parties”, which will be totally acceptable for the Saudis and their allies. As an aggressor, sharing the blame with the victim is a good outcome.

7 Hijacking the Narrative: The MSM myths of Manipulation

The reaction to this ongoing barbarian destruction and killing spree has been rather lame in the Western Main Stream Media and at the political leadership level in the US/UK/EU

One reason for this is that the Saudis and the West have been extremely successful in planting a false Narrative on the reasons for the conflict, not only in the “Main Stream Media”, but also within the International community itself as we have seen.

The biased Saudi/US/UK version of the conflict is backed by and further amplified by the Main Stream Media which act as an “opinion cartel” in favour of a narrative suitable for manipulation of the Western public opinion.

Thus, a set of standard myths are presented as facts with no further need for checking: It is claimed to be all about a war of religion and also a civil war, sometimes a “proxy war”, where the “rebel” side is backed by Iran, while the other side is represented by the “internationally recognised government”. On the other hand, controllable facts and events that contradict the established narrative are most often simply not reported.

The effect of this combination of blatant lies (“lying by commission”) and selective silence (“lying by omission”) by the Main Stream Media is to a large extent that of passivizing the Western public opinion regarding the war on Yemen, in spite of the obvious and heinous atrocities and crimes against humanity committed by the aggressors.

The role of the Western mass media in the reporting on Yemen is one of many examples of the unravelling of democracy, moral standards and support for human rights in the West. Swedish media are no exception in respect to this.

8 Stop the War now!

Concerned citizens and governments must act to have this insane, barbarian and criminal war halted! The aggression against the people of Yemen must be put to an end NOW! The attack on this country was initiated for no good reason but there are compelling reasons to end it.

Each new day of unlawful bombing and blockade adds to the pile of shame on the perpetrators: Saudi Arabia UAE and its members in the coalition, and not the least, The US and the UK, as well as other countries who will-fully have exported arms to the aggressors throughout the entire war of aggression, while maintaining a conspicuous silence of collusion.

8.1 What can be done?

Most importantly the deceitful UNSC Resolution #2216 which has been used as a pretext for the atrocities committed against the Yemeni population must be replaced by a resolution demanding immediate end of the war of intervention against a sovereign country, full member of the UN, with the same rights to sovereignty according to the UN Charter as any other member state.

8.1.1 Sweden’s deplorable role

Sweden wants to be internationally perceived as a “Great Power” of Human Rights. The government seldom misses an opportunity to proclaim its championship of Human Rights in general, and women’s rights in particular. After a sustained, high profile lobbying campaign on the promise of being a guardian of Human Rights and International law issues in the Security Council, the country was elected member to the UNSC for the period 2017-2018. Yet Sweden has been silent on Yemen since the start of the US/UK/Saudi aggression against that country and remains so up to this day. Sadly, the reasons for this are all too obvious. The interests of the Swedish Arms export lobby weigh more than those of the starving Yemeni population, not to say than the highly held principles and moral standards of the government. There is a tacit agreement between the Swedish Government and Saudi Arabia not to criticise the latter in exchange for Sweden to remain a stable arms exporter to Saudi Arabia and other members of the “coalition”.

8.1.2 A new chance for Sweden

Sweden should live up to its promises while campaigning for a seat in the UNSC:The following are excerpts from the Document ‘PROGRAMME FOR SWEDEN’S MEMBERSHIP OF THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL 2017–2018’:

The United Nations General Assembly has elected Sweden as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2017–2018 term. Our election to a seat on the Council is a success for Swedish foreign policy and diplomacy. As an open country that is dependent on the rest of the world, it is in Sweden’s interest to contribute to and defend the international order, at the heart of which lie the United Nations and the Security Council. The Charter of the United Nations gives the Security Council primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.”

Sweden’s candidacy was based on knowledge of and engagement in international peace and security, as well as belief in dialogue and diplomacy, and respect for international law as a tool. Deepened contacts with many countries around the world have given us a better understanding of today’s challenges and how they are perceived, while also providing a basis for our work as a member of the Security Council. Sweden will listen to those concerned, defend those who need to be defended and stand up for what we believe in”.

If the horrendous crimes against Yemen does not warrant outspoken condemnation from Sweden in the UNSC, then the above statement is empty “feel-good” rhetoric.

And as alleged defensor of the Charter of the United Nations, we urge Sweden to take action against UNSC #2216 which tramples upon the basic principles of sovereignty and equality as clearly outlined in the Charter.