During an emergency closed-door Security Council session on Yemen held on May 1, the U.S. blocked a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire necessary to address the growing humanitarian crisis in the country.
Washington’s refusal to support a humanitarian ceasefire for Yemen comes despite the mid-April finding by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that food reserves in the country were running out and despite reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross of “an alarming shortage of virtually everything needed to sustain life.”
Before the UNSC emergency meeting two days ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had himself stepped in to point out that fuel shortages now threaten to bring all relief operations to a halt “‘within days, echoing alarm from the International Red Cross and other embattled aid agencies.”
The war crimes the Saudis are committing in Yemen have not been reported or identified as such by any of our mainstream media. Nor has Washington’s role in enabling those war crimes drawn any criticism from the Western press.
Here’s a brief timeline of the relevant events as they can be traced by following the ICRC statements on the situation in Yemen.
Already in its March 26 Press Release, the ICRC had reminded the international community that
“All parties involved in the current round of violence are bound by the rules governing the conduct of hostilities,” and that under international humanitarian law, “all countries taking part in coalition military operations, as well as the Yemeni armed forces and armed groups, must comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and must strive to avoid harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects.”
So concerned was the ICRC at the Saudi actions by that point that, in the diplomatic language it uses in such situations, it expressly called “on all those involved in the conflict to show respect for human life, to treat detainees correctly and to help ensure that the wounded have access to the medical care they require. Medical facilities must be safeguarded, and may not be attacked.”
ICRC’s explicit appeal to the international community (and, implicitly, the UN Security Council itself, the world’s top authority in these situations) to ensure that all parties in the war respect the international humanitarian law which protects medical and other civilian facilities (such as schools and radio and television stations and the like), fell on deaf ears in both Washington and Riyadh, which continued its bombing raids on Yemen and on the civilian infrastructure in Aden, San’a and elsewhere.
Between March 26 and April 30 of this year, the situation in Aden itself deteriorated to the point that the ICRC was compelled to evacuate the patients and its own surgical team from the Al Jamhouria hospital because it was by then in the direct line of fire. Its April 30th Press Release, began with this stark report:
“After a month of airstrikes and fighting, Yemen’s health system is struggling to cope and there are severe shortages of essential items especially food and fuel. Import restrictions have made the situation worse.”
Cedric Schweizer, ICRC’s head of delegation in Yemen, then went on to say:
“We are shocked by the lack of respect for the hospital, as a neutral health facility, by the fighting parties. Under no circumstances should this be happening, and under no circumstances should hospitals be targeted or used for fighting purposes. Our team had been working in that hospital for three weeks but, after all the patients and staff were put at risk, the hospital had to be vacated.”
The head of Al Kuwait Hospital in San’a also reports that the facility he manages is running out of fuel, that its ambulances are no longer able to transport patients to the hospital, and that only about half of the hospital staff themselves are able to come to work because the public transport is no longer functioning. Al Kuwait’s emergency unit is suffering from a severe shortage of lifesaving supplies because the country’s ports are under blockade and the spare parts needed to maintain the local oxygen-production factory cannot reach Sana’a.
At a time when the Yemeni hospitals are running out of their last supplies of oxygen and other vital necessities and when the food shortages in the country have assumed alarming proportions, the U.S. has chosen to block the Security Council resolution for an immediate ceasefire to address the humanitarian catastrophe facing the people of Yemen.
Not only that: in the latest Al Jazeera report, Washington now also stands accused by the Human Rights Watch of having supplied Saudi Arabia with the cluster-bombs it’s been using in its fight against Houthi rebels.
Let us remember that the Saudi bombing raids on Yemen and the blockade of its ports are themselves illegal and in open violation of the international law as they were never approved by the UN Security Council, the only body on Earth authorized to give clearance for such acts.