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Huge spike in Yemen violence as civilian deaths rise by 164% in four months

Peter Beaumont
Summer campaign by Saudi-led coalition to regain control of strategic port of Hodeidah kills 500 people in nine days...

Civilian deaths in Yemen have surged dramatically since June after the Saudi-led coalition began an offensive to take the key port city of Hodeidah from Houthi rebels.
According to the figures, collected by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled), civilian deaths in the Yemeni conflict have increased by 164% in the four months since the Hodeidah offensive started, claiming the lives of about 166 people a month.
The group’s analysis suggests Hodeidah has become the most violent frontline in the four-year conflict. In recent months, about one-third of the total conflict-related fatalities have been recorded in the governorate, reflecting the bitterness of the struggle for the key port and its surrounding environs.
Attempts to negotiate a ceasefire led to a temporary pause in the summer offensive, but the failure of peace talks in Geneva convened by Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, led to a resumption of hostilities on 7 September.
The coalition-led efforts have focused on several key points around the city, including a battle for control of the Kilo 16 road junction linking Hodeidah to Sana’a, a key supply line for the Houthis controlling the port. The sharp rise in casualties noted by Acled was cited by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in renewed calls to the UN general assembly, which met in New York this week, to bring an end to Yemen’s war.
“August was the most violent month of 2018 in Yemen with nearly 500 people killed in just nine days,” said Frank McManus, the IRC’s Yemen director, who added that, “since 2015, the coalition has undertaken 18,000 airstrikes – one every 99 minutes – one-third of which have hit non-military targets”.
McManus said: “The protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure is not a luxury; it is an essential provision of international law. When these laws fail, civilians suffer. Calls from members of the UN security council for all conflict actors to respect international law and protect civilians ring hollow in the face of evidence from the ground in Yemen. The world needs a wake up call on Yemen and a new strategy to prevent the suffering of civilians.
“As we speak, fighting inside the critical port city of Hodeidah is increasing and the consequences are dire. A siege will effectively block humanitarian aid from reaching the 22 million people in need and could trigger famine. This week the UN warned that we are losing the fight against famine in Yemen and, with the humanitarian crisis plummeting to new depths, all efforts must be focused on securing a ceasefire.”
The new casualty figures came even as the Saudi-led coaltion insisted it was doing everything to minimise civilian deaths in Hodeidah.
Military spokesman Col Turki Al-Maliki announced on Monday that three humanitarian corridors between the former capital that was seized by the Houthi militia in 2014 and the country’s biggest port on the Red Sea have been set up in cooperation with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“The coalition is working with OCHA in Yemen to establish safe humanitarian corridors to help in the delivery of aid … between Hodeidah and Sanaa,” Al-Maliki told a press conference in Riyadh.International NGOs have echoed warnings about the escalating scale of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen after Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian chief, last week told the security council that the country is at a “tipping point” for the risk of a “massive loss of life” because of famine.
In a statement to the UN general assembly, 14 groups including Save the Children, Oxfam and Mercy Corps said: “After almost four years of conflict, and despite all efforts to halt displacement, hunger and disease, Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis on earth. The suffering inflicted on Yemeni people is entirely manmade and will continue to deteriorate rapidly on all fronts without actions to end the violence.
“Increased fighting risks pushing the country into utter devastation: The ongoing escalation around Hodeidah jeopardises the safety of civilians and threatens the channels for critical fuel, food and medical supplies to the rest of the country. It is crucial that this remains open. The lives of millions of Yemeni women, men and children hang on this lifeline.
“Civilians continue to bear the brunt. Civilians and civilian infrastructure, such as markets, hospitals, school buses and mills continue to be hit by all parties with impunity, as reported by the UN group of eminent experts on Yemen.
“Attacks on schools and hospitals continue, with over 1,800 schools directly impacted by the conflict, including more than 1,500 that have been damaged or destroyed and 21 used by armed groups.”


At least seven people have sustained injuries when Saudi regime forces carried out an operation in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its brutal clampdown against pro-democracy campaigners and political dissidents.

The Arabic-language Ahrar television network, in a post published on its official Twitter page on Wednesday, reported that Saudi troopers raided a house behind Fatah Mosque in the Kawkab neighborhood of Qatif region, located more than 420 kilometers (260 miles) east of the capital Riyadh, leaving a number of people injured.
There were reportedly elderly people among those injured.

Saudi Arabia has recently stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution, and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

Saudi officials have also intensified security measures in the kingdom’s Shia-populated Eastern Province.
Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime. Regime forces have increased security measures across the province.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to also target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the policies of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif in 2012.

Yemen war crimes probe 'must continue' despite Saudi resistance, says UN

War crimes investigators called for the UN's top rights body to allow them to continue probing the "extremely alarming" situation in Yemen, amid resistance from Saudi Arabia and others, reports said on Wednesday.

The investigators, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council a year ago, presented a report to the body that concluded all sides in Yemen's conflict may have committed "war crimes". 
The resolution that first set up the inquiry last year after a long diplomatic fight gave investigators a year to conduct their probe.
But Kamel Jendoubi, who heads the so-called Group of Independent Eminent International and Regional Experts, insisted that "in light of the gravity of the situation and the limited time given to the mandate, additional investigations are needed". 

"The situation in Yemen continues to be extremely alarming," he told the council.
"We call upon you to keep the situation in Yemen at the top of the priorities of the council," he said, urging diplomats to "unanimously" adopt a resolution led by a group of European countries and Canada calling for a one-year extension. 
This, he said, was necessary "to ensure that truth is revealed and accountability is attained."

'Politicised and biased'

But while a long line of diplomats voiced support on Wednesday for prolonging the probe, it remains unclear if the council will give the investigators a green light to continue when it votes on the resolution at the end of this week.

A competing text on the table, led by Tunisia on behalf of the group of Arab states, makes no mention of extending the probe but calls for Yemen's often-criticised National Commission of Inquiry to continue studying the conflict. 

Observers say Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition that intervened in the conflict in March 2015 on behalf of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government in the fight against Houthi rebels, is actively working to quash the international probe.
Yemeni Human Rights Minister Mohammed Asker slammed the group's report as "politicised and biased", accusing the investigators of ignoring "terrible crimes committed by the Houthis", who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UN, Abdulaziz Alwasil, charged that investigators had based their findings on "conjectures and guesswork". 

Last week, Human Rights Watch criticised Riyadh's "campaign to discredit and undermine a UN investigation into abuses by all Yemen's warring parties", calling it "yet another blatant attempt to avoid scrutiny of the coalition's own actions in Yemen".
While investigators described violations by all sides, they concluded in their report that "coalition airstrikes have caused most of the documented civilian casualties". 
Yemen's conflict has left more than 10,000 people dead since March 2015, sparking the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with three quarters of the population -or 22 million people - in need of humanitarian aid, according to UN figures.

Tortured, raped and penniless: migrant women return from the hell of Saudi Arabia

By Sumon Corraya

In the last three years about 5,000 migrant women have returned from the Saudi kingdom. Between 1991 and 2018, at least 700,000 Bangladeshi women sought employment abroad, including 250,000 in Arabia. An NGO, BRAC, helps women who escape reintegrate into society.

Thousands of Bangladeshi women who went to Saudi Arabia in search of fortune have gone home penniless after enduring torture and sexual abuse.
The numbers are staggering. According to Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC), an NGO that helps migrants escape from places of torture, about 5,000 have done so in the last three years.
Officially, at least nine million Bangladeshis work in 160 countries around the world. Those who are lucky enough to travel to the United States or Europe lead difficult but dignified lives. But those who go to the Middle East often find themselves in hell, especially female migrants.
Fatama Akter was one of them. She had to emigrate and leave her sick husband and children in Barisal (central-southern Bangladesh).
"I went to Saudi Arabia to work even though my husband did not want me to,” she told AsiaNews, “but he is sick and I wanted to earn some money for medical treatment and to send our children to school. "
After three months working for a heavy-handed employer she “had had enough. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got sick and he denied me medicines. Moreover, my workload was huge and if I dared to speak out, he would beat me."
Fatama managed to escape and return to Bangladesh. Like her, many other Bangladeshi women work as domestic help. All report incidents of physical and psychological torture and irregularities over wages.
“Three men regularly raped me. If I wouldn’t agree, they beat me,” said another migrant worker, Kobita Bagum. “One day I escaped and visited the local police station and this is how I returned to Bangladesh”.
In her view, the government should not allow women to go to Saudi Arabia to work “because that country is not safe for women”.
BRAC estimates that, between 1991 and 2018, about 700,000 Bangladeshi women went abroad seeking employment, 250,000 in Saudi Arabia alone.,-raped-and-penniless:-migrant-women-return-from-the-hell-of-Saudi-Arabia-45060.html

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#Pakistan - Govt fails to provide people's access to information: study

By Asma Ghani
The government has failed in dispensing citizens with their right to access of information which is leading to eroding transparency and accountability in Pakistan.
The was the crux of a study focusing on the breach of Article 19-A of the Constitution that guarantees access to information by the state to its citizens, as well as, the Federal Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.
It was found that all federal ministries had performed poorly in complying with the act, resulting in impeding transparency, accountability and access to information.
Seventeen of the total 46 federal ministries functional between the last day of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government and start of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led regime did not even have websites in this regard.
Moreover, the remaining 27 that did, most failed at complying with Section 5 of the Act which deals with the proactive disclosure requiring all federal public bodies, including federal ministries, to provide a set of a minimum of 39 categories of information.
“This also represents a failure to comply with its commitments made under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) relating to transparency, good governance, as well as, the development related to implementation of policy and statutory guarantees on access to information,” a passage of the study reads.
The study, conducted by the Islamabad-based Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), has been released on the eve of International Day for Universal Access to Information (IUDAI), which is globally commemorated every year on September 28.

Pakistan: Journalists should not be harassed or intimidated through criminal justice system

Pakistan’s authorities must ensure that the criminal justice system is not used to harass or intimidate journalists, Amnesty International said today.

The human rights organization raised its concern after the Lahore High Court’s decision to issue non-bailable arrest warrants for prominent Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida and impose a ban on his traveling outside the country.

Cyril Almeida, Assistant Editor at Dawn newspaper, has been summoned by the court for conducting an interview in May 2018 with former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is facing charges of treason for comments he made in the interview alleging a link between the Pakistani military and armed groups.

“Cyril Almeida has simply been doing his job as a journalist. He conducted an interview with a former prime minister and reported what he was told. While the Lahore High Court is entitled to demand his appearance, the authorities must be careful not to use the criminal justice system to harass or intimidate journalists. Journalism is not a crime and journalists doing their work should not be treated as criminals,” said Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

The Lahore High Court says that it is compelling Cyril Almeida to appear before it after issuing repeated notices. The Dawn newspaper, however, says that the first two notices were never delivered and the third only arrived last week.

Journalism is not a crime and journalists doing their work should not be treated as criminals.

Omar Waraich
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Cyril Almeida and Dawn newspaper have both said that they are willing to fully cooperate with the courts.

This is not the first time a travel ban has been imposed on Cyril Almeida. In October 2016, his name was put on Pakistan’s Exit Control List amid a furore over an article he published on tensions between the then civilian government and the military over alleged links to armed groups.

In 2016, Cyril Almeida and Zaffar Abbas, the editor of Dawn, appeared before a high-level inquiry tribunal that asked them questions about the newspaper article.

Over recent months, since Cyril Almeida’s interview with Nawaz Sharif was published, Dawn has seen its circulation heavily disrupted in the country while the newspaper has come under intense pressure for its independent editorial policy. News agents have been warned against stocking the newspaper and street vendors have been harassed and intimidated for selling it.

On 7 June 2018, speaking at a meeting of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society in Islamabad, Hameed Haroon, the CEO of the Dawn Media Group warned that Pakistan is “encountering the most dangerous attack” on the right to freedom of expression.

“The new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a number of very positive pledges when it comes to human rights. We expect his government will also commit to the protection of freedom of expression, and ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists and other human rights defenders, so that they can do their work freely and without fear of reprisals,” said Omar Waraich.

#Pakistan - PM Imran Khan should have attended UN session: Bilawal Bhutto

Prime Minister Imran Khan should have attended the United Nations General Assembly session to highlight the Kashmir issue, said Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday.

“You should tell the nation why you did not attend the session by yourself and did not highlight the Kashmir issue at the international forum,” Bilawal said.
He was addressing an event organised to mark the death anniversary of late politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan in Islamabad.
Bilawal Bhutto criticised the PTI-led federal government for ‘politicking on non-issues’. “The government wants to divert the attention from real issues.”
“Important issues have been made a joke. Even the foreign policy is announced on the social media,” he said.
The government has not broken the begging bowl, contrary to its claims. It is running the entire country with donations, said the PPP leader.
“Inflation is making the situation worse for the masses. The mini budget has broken the backbone of the poor.”
Bilawal Bhutto opposed the government’s plan to construct new dams on the River Indus, saying that thousands of acres of Sindh’s coastal land have gone into the sea. He was referring to sea intrusion.
“Dams should be built but where the water will come from? The real cause of the water crisis is the unjust distribution of water,” he said.

Govt’s wrong decision taking country towards destruction: Bilawal Bhutto

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s wrong decisions were taking the country towards destructions.
He stated this while attending the death anniversary of veteran politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan in Islamabad.
Bilawal Bhutto said that wrong decision of government have increased the problems of the people, adding that country was passing through a major political era.
The PPP chairman said that those who promised to break the begging bowl were now running the country on donations.
He further said that PPP at first had decided to wait for the 100 days before criticizing the government’s policies, but had to speak because selected government is making life of the poor worse.
Bilawal also criticized the decision of prime minister to send Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting and said that Imran Khan himself should have to attend the session to raise the Kashmir issue at an international forum.
He said that false cases were being made against his father and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
“The courts were used in undemocratic tenure for political intentions and today old cases were reopened against Asif Ali Zardari,” he added. He uncovered that for the last 30 years, former president is facing courts and the process of reopening old cases must come to an end, he concluded.