Yemen: the slaughter continues

By Mike Phipps

Nearly seven years after Saudi-led forces began a brutal bombing campaign in Yemen, there has been a surge in air raids and civilian casualties. This coincides with the winding up of the UN investigation into Yemen in October 2021, a decision which followed “pressure by Saudi Arabia and other coalition partners,” according to Amnesty International.

According to the Yemen Data Project, Saudi coalition bombing rates increased by 43% in December 2021 compared to October. Civilian casualties in the air war reached the highest monthly rate in 2.5 years. On 21st January 2022, airstrikes – against a prison facility in Sa’dah where migrants were also being held – reportedly killed 91 people and injured 226 people, the worst civilian-casualty incident in Yemen in three years.

The UK government’s role in this is contemptible. It decided to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2020 despite the Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s earlier successful judicial review against it in 2019. The then Trade Secretary Liz Truss argued that Saudi Arabia was not regularly deliberately breaching international law in bombing Yemen.

Now CAAT has been granted permission to take the government back to Court to challenge this decision. The case should be heard in June this year.

A coalition of European and Yemeni groups led by Mwatana for Human Rights and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, including CAAT, have submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court (ICC), calling on the Court to investigate European governments and arms company officials for potentially aiding and abetting war crimes in Yemen.

The Office of the Prosecutor is still examining the Communication to decide if the ICC will start a formal investigation. Readers can help demonstrate the strength of public feeling on this case, by calling on the Prosecutor to secure accountability for the people of Yemen.

The casualties of the war in Yemen run to more than 100,000 dead with almost as many killed by hunger and disease caused by the Saudi blockade of the country’s ports. Yet in March 2021, the UK government decided to cut – almost by half – its aid to Yemen, a decision condemned by over 100 charities, including the usually cautious Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children and Care International.

A year ago, the United Nations warned that the country was headed toward the worst famine the world has seen in decades. As many as 16.2 million Yemenis are food insecure. The crisis has been particularly devastating for children, who make up a quarter of the civilian casualties over the past three years. According to the World Food Programme, as many as 2.3 million children under five are suffering acute malnutrition and require medical treatment.

At the same time, the UK has sold Saudi Arabia £5.4bn worth of arms since the Yemen war began, making the UK the second largest exporter, according to CAAT.

UK arms sales to the Saudi regime have risen fivefold since 2016. They include cluster bombs that have been dropped over Yemen – despite Britain being among the 100 countries to have prohibited their use – but not their sale to clients abroad.

This arms trade needs to be halted.

Find out if you have a local CAAT group near you here.

Watch Prof. Madawi al-Rasheed, visiting professor at LSE Middle East Centre, and Andrew Feinstein, author of Shadow World and former African National Congress MP, with Mizanur Rahman of London CAAT discuss the situation in Saudi Arabia, its links to the arms trade and the war in Yemen, and the need for international events to boycott the country – here.

Donate to CAAT here.

Mike Phipps is editor of the Iraq Occupation Focus e-newsletter, available at book For the Many: Preparing Labour for Power was published by OR Books in 2018.

Image: Breaking the almost total silence on British complicity in Saudi war crimes in Yemen. Author: Alisdare Hickson from Canterbury, United Kingdom, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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