Friday, August 31, 2018
By Nick Cumming-Bruce
The report singled out Saudi and Emirati airstrikes for causing the most civilian casualties, saying they had hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, jails, boats and medical facilities.
“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties,” said Kamel Jendoubi, the chairman of the panel of experts that produced the report.
The report also said the Houthi rebels, who control northern Yemen and are fighting the Saudi-Emirati coalition, may have committed war crimes. They were accused of shelling civilians, torturing detainees, recruiting young children to fight and blocking access to humanitarian agencies.
“None have clean hands,” one of the experts, Charles Garraway, a retired military officer who served for 30 years as a legal officer in the British Army, told reporters in Geneva. “Despite the severity of the situation, we continue to witness a total disregard of the suffering of the people of Yemen.”
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said it would respond after its legal team had reviewed the report.
The Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Twitter that his government would need to study the report before responding, but he said the culpability of the Houthis for civilian suffering needed to be recognized. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters in Washington that the Trump administration had reviewed its support for the Saudi-Emirati coalition.
“We determined it was the right thing to do in defense of their own countries, but also to restore the rightful government there,’’ he told reporters. “Our conduct there is to try to keep the human cost of innocents being killed accidentally to an absolute minimum.’’ The American goal, Mr. Mattis said, is to encourage the combatants to negotiate a settlement to the conflict.
Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni human rights activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, responded to Mr. Gargash, the Emirati foreign affairs minister on Twitter. She said the United Nations report would not be credible unless it cited the leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as the head of the Houthi movement, as responsible for the civilian massacres.
Political factions and militias have been fighting for control of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, since power-sharing talks collapsed in 2014 and the Houthis ousted the internationally backed government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Since then, fighting has devolved into proxy warfare, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arming and fighting alongside a disparate group of Islamist, tribal and regional militias against the Houthis, who control Sana, the capital, as well as the major port of Al Hudaydah and their ancestral territories along the Saudi border.
The Saudis and their allies have accused Iran of aiding the Houthis. Iran has denied involvement, despite evidence that the rebels are using Iranian weaponry, including missiles.
The report accused the Saudi-led coalition of routinely having failed to consult its own “no-strike list” of more than 30,000 sites in Yemen, including refugee camps and hospitals. It also said the Saudi Air Force had not cooperated with investigators about its targeting procedures. The conflict has resulted in at least 16,700 casualties, including 6,475 civilians killed, but the real figure is almost certainly significantly higher, according to the United Nations.
The main cause of civilian casualties in the war, the report says, has been airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. It estimates that there have been 18,000 such strikes in little more than three years, inflicting a level of damage on civilians that “certainly contributed to Yemen’s dire economic and humanitarian situation.”
The report, to be delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council next month, comes not long after a Saudi-coalition strike this month killed 40 children on a school bus. The experts who wrote the report said that the names of individuals suspected of abuses would be sent to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. They declined to provide details, but the report said offenses had been committed by individuals at all levels in the Saudi-led coalition’s member states and their governments, including civilian officials.
Sixty coalition attacks on residential areas reviewed by the experts killed more than 500 civilians, including 233 children, they said. An attack on a funeral hall in Sana in October 2016 killed at least 137 civilians, according to the report.
The experts said that the coalition had kept up the intensity of the airstrikes even after it had become clear that civilians were suffering dire consequences. Civilians were further harmed, they said, by the coalition’s arbitrary restrictions on shipping and air travel. The screening of ships coming into Al Hudaydah — ostensibly to prevent arms from entering the country — has had “a chilling effect on commercial shipping supplies of fuel and food needed to fend off starvation, even though United Nations searches of shipping had found no weapons,” the experts said.
“No possible military advantage could justify such sustained and extreme suffering of millions of people,” they said.
The report detailed allegations of rape and abuse by a proxy unit called the Security Belt Forces, which is under the control of the United Arab Emirates, that targeted not just detainees but also refugee and migrant women and children. The experts faulted in particular the coalition’s Joint Incidents Assessment Team, which is supposed to investigate claims of military abuse but which human rights groups say was set up to deflect pressure for an international inquiry into the war.
The assessment team’s work lacked transparency, its investigations lacked legal analysis and its findings regularly ignored civilian casualties and were often substantially altered by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the experts said.
A report released by Human Rights Watch last week warned Britain, France and the United States that they risked complicity in unlawful attacks in Yemen by continuing to supply arms to Saudi Arabia.
"Dear Friends and Family of Aretha:
"Michelle and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to all those who have gathered in Detroit, and we join you in remembering and celebrating the life of the Queen of Soul.
"From a young age, Aretha Franklin rocked the world of anyone who had the pleasure of hearing her voice. Whether bringing people together through a thrilling intersection of genres or advancing important causes through the power of song, Aretha’s work reflected the very best of our American story – in all of its hope and heart, its boldness and its unmistakable beauty.
"In the example she set, both as an artist and a citizen, Aretha embodied those most revered virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation, while the music she made captured some of our deepest human desires: namely affection and respect. And through her own voice, Aretha lifted those of millions, empowering and inspiring the vulnerable, the downtrodden, and everyone who may have just needed a little love.
"Aretha truly was one of a kind. And as you pay tribute, know we’ll be saying a little prayer for you. And we’ll be thinking of all of Aretha’s loved ones in the days and weeks to come.
"Sincerely, Barack Obama"
#ArethaHomegoing - Aretha Franklin funeral: Tributes from Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush
Bill Clinton represented former presidents at the funeral of Aretha Franklin in Detroit, while Barack Obama and George W. Bush each sent letters in memory of Aretha Franklin that were read aloud by Rev. Al Sharpton and Barbara Sampson, respectively.
Obama and Bush remained in Washington for Saturday's memorial service for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who requested that each of them to speak.
Bill Clinton's Aretha Franklin tribute
Clinton's presence at the funeral is no surprise: His relationship with Franklin stretches back to at least 1993 when she performed at his first inauguration. In May 1999, Franklin performed for Clinton at the White House Correspondents Association's annual dinner, and later that year, the president awarded her with the National Medal of Arts and Humanities during a White House ceremony.
“She lived with courage," said the 42nd president. "Not without fear, but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith. Not without failure, but overcoming her failures. She lived with power. Not without weakness, but overcoming her weaknesses. I just loved her.”
Clinton recalls seeing Aretha last year at Elton John AIDS fund-raiser, where she performed for 45 minutes, despite looking gaunt from pancreatic cancer: “She stood right up and said, ‘How you doing, baby?’ I said, ‘I’m doing better now.’ She said: ‘Look at me. I got thin again.’ “
The former president also asked the audience to forgive him, saying he was happy that Franklin’s casket was still open when he arrived because he just had to see what she was wearing.
Clinton said, “I wonder what my friend has got on today. I wanted to see what the girl was carrying out,” to a wave of laughs and claps from the crowd. Franklin was wearing a gold gown, her fourth outfit of the week.
He ended his time by playing Franklin’s “Think” on his iPhone into the mic. “It’s the key to freedom!” Clinton said.
As the Federally Administered Tribal Areas transition into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — a series of violent occurrences have marred the democratic process. A remote controlled bomb blast killed one, and injured three soldiers during a routine search in the Datta Khel Tehsil in North Waziristan. Subsequently, armed forces came to the Hamzoni village to arrest suspects. This arrest was resisted by the villagers — which led to clashes.
This tragedy shed light on two grave hindrances in the judicial and policing systems that aim to protect and safeguard the lives and rights of its citizens. First is the law of Collective Punishment under the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) which was introduced by our colonial overlords in 1872 to control the tribes in FATA. The FCR inspired from the local tribal jirga system, appoints a ‘political agent’ who passes any and all judgements; even the right of holding an entire village or agency responsible for the crimes committed by a few. Instead being an effective tool of conflict resolution, this and other laws like it deprive the citizens of FATA of the constitutional rights granted to every other Pakistani.
Furthermore, it highlighted the need to give on-ground personnel across security outfits sensitivity training to deal with civilian populations. This way protests can be viewed as the democratic right of every citizen, an indicator of the prevalent freedom of speech and expression rather than a national security threat. Moreover, when the question of civilian lives is at stake — then mistakes or pre-emptive behaviour cannot hold priority. This is also evident in the accidental killing of Bilal Khan, a seventeen-year-old who was caught in crossfire during a police raid in Karachi on Saturday.
The most disheartening element however, was the media black-out of the sit-in protest that took place in Miran Shah in the aftermath of the shooting. While social media was rampant with indignation over the atrocities; major news channels and newspapers remained silent on the matter. The fourth estate must be allowed to provide fair and unhindered information regarding the happenings in the country, no matter which deprived, isolated corner of the state the news comes from.
On a positive note however, we see the newly elected MNA Mohsin Dawar playing an active role in the mobilisation and representation of his people, not only in person or on social media — but in the National Assembly. Similarly we must commend the Pakistan Army for assuming responsibility and initiating an investigation into the incident. Moreover, General Mumtaz Hussain visited the injured at Miran Shah Hospital and announced financial compensation for the injured as well as the deceased. While this tragedy left many disgruntled, the subsequent efforts by the politico-military outfits provide a glimmer of hope.
By GUL BUKHARI
The performance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has so far only invited ridicule.
Two recent attacks against Christians in Pakistan emphasize the worsening conditions for believers in the predominately Muslim country.
One of those incidents occurred on August 2, when Vicky Masih, 35, was murdered on his wedding anniversary.
"It was the wedding anniversary of Vicky and his wife," an advocate Tariq Zia told International Christian Concern (ICC). "Vicky was asked by his Muslim friends to meet them at Muhammad Abbas' house and celebrate with them."
"Muhammad Ilyas, another one of Vicky's Muslim friends, had to pay back a handsome loan to Vicky," Zia continued. "When Vicky asked for his money back, Muhammad Ilyas abused Vicky and said that he will teach a lesson to the choora."
"Choora" is a derogatory term used against Christians.
"Within no time, the party turned into an exchanging of harsh words, a physical clash, and ended with Vicky's murder," Zia reported.
According to Asia News, Abbas opened fire on Vicky and left him to die. Local residents eventually took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. He left behind a wife and three young children.
Iftikhar Saleem, the victim's younger brother, told Asia News that the police arrested the killer only after public protest.
"The police are conniving with the perpetrators, who are part of rich criminal families," he said. "We want justice...We are poor and we do not have the strength to fight these thugs. We call upon all the people of God to help us and pray for the wife of Vicky and her three little children: now they are the most vulnerable and defenseless."
Just 16 days later, Alvin John and his family were brutally attacked in the Mehmoodabad neighborhood of Karach.
He told ICC that some of his Muslim neighbors repeatedly harassed his family because of their Christian faith.
"I shifted my family to this rented house about 10 months ago," John told ICC. "At first, we were asked to leave by some Muslim neighbors because of our Christian faith. But since Easter, we have been pressurized, threatened, and teased."
"My 19-year-old daughter Aresha then became the target," John explained. "They would follow my daughter in the streets and markets, offering her a bright and secure future if she converted, and often abused her for her Christian faith."
John did his best to protect his family and find another place stay, but he says they were attacked on August 18.
"A mob of Muslims, led by Muhammad Samad Zaheer, attacked me and my family," John said. "They damaged the left eye of my son, Vickram John. Initially, the doctors have no hope for his eyesight."
"The attackers also broke most of the house stuff, furniture, doors, and windows," he continued. "We cannot go back to the house as there is unrest in the neighborhood. We are now taking shelter with relatives."
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians. It is especially dangerous for Christians who convert from Islam.
In May, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) cited Pakistan for its deteriorating human rights record.
"In 2017, religious minorities in Pakistan, including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadis, and Shi'a Muslims, continued to face attacks and discrimination from extremist groups and society at large," the commission stated in a report. "The government of Pakistan failed to protect these groups adequately, and it perpetrated systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations.''