Friday, December 13, 2019
Alex Daniel BAE Systems has been accused of having contributed to alleged war crimes in the conflict in Yemen by a group of human rights organisations, in a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) has submitted a 300-page document accusing European arms executives at firms such as BAE, Airbus and Raytheon of “aiding and abetting” the alleged crimes. The war in Yemen has been raging since 2015, and more than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia against the Houthi rebels, who support Iran, has repeatedly carried out airstrikes that human rights groups have criticised. The document cites 26 strikes which killed 135 people. It describes some of as them attacks on hospitals and schools by Saudi bombers or those from its coalition ally the United Arab Emirates. Radhya Almutawakel, chairperson of Yemeni organization Mwatana for Human Rights, said: “Saudi/UAE-led coalition airstrikes have caused terrible destruction in Yemen. Weapons produced and exported by the US and Europe have enabled this destruction.“Five years into this war, the countless Yemeni victims deserve credible investigations into all perpetrators of crimes against them, including those potentially complicit.”Human rights campaigners from Amnesty International and Campaign Against the Arms Trade handed over the file in The Hague, where the ICC is based.Linde Bryk, Legal Advisor at ECCHR, added: “European companies – and indirectly European states – have profited from arms exports to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition. At the same time these arms are used in Yemen in international humanitarian law violations that may amount to war crimes.” UK ministers promised in June to stop green-lighting export licences to Saudi Arabia and its military coalition allies for use in Yemen, after a challenge by campaigners at the Court of Appeal. But trade secretary Liz Truss faced calls to resign in October after admitting to several “inadvertent” breaches of that promise. Judges hearing the case earlier this year said existing licences should be reviewed, but that they would not be suspended straight away. However, Truss predecessor Liam Fox had assured them the government would not grant further export licences while it considered the ruling. BAE Systems is contracted to the UK government, not to Saudi entities in the selling of arms to the kingdom. Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s arms control researcher, said: “An ICC investigation would be a historic step towards holding arms company executives accountable for their business decisions. “Company executives have had ample time and access to plenty of reliable information to reassess their decisions to supply the coalition in the light of the horrific events in Yemen.” A spokesperson for BAE Systems said: “We provide defence equipment, training and support under government to government agreements between the UK and KSA [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia]. “We comply with all relevant export control laws and regulations in the countries in which we operate. Our activities are subject to UK government approval and oversight.” https://www.cityam.com/bae-systems-faces-accusations-of-aiding-and-abetting-alleged-saudi-war-crimes-in-yemen/
As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity sinks along with the economy, onetime allies are trying to lure his supporters.
A former prime minister and erstwhile ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that he was creating a new political party, a challenge that could splinter the governing party and fatally damage the Turkish leader’s chances for re-election.
Ahmet Davutoglu, once Mr. Erdogan’s closest ally, served under him as foreign minister and then prime minister until 2016. His break with the Turkish president represents a direct challenge as Mr. Davutoglu pledges a return to the original principles and ideals of their old party.
To the cheers and whistles of a large crowd of supporters in a hotel ballroom in Ankara, the capital, Mr. Davutoglu unveiled his Future Party, saying that “the future is our nation’s, the future is Turkey’s.”
He told his supporters to focus not on the pain of past divisions, but on uniting and securing rights for all in the future.
A second close ally and former minister, Ali Babacan, has also resigned from Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., and is preparing to announce his own new party within weeks, his supporters say.
The two defections will not immediately threaten Mr. Erdogan, since he has amassed enormous personal power with the country’s transition last year to a presidential system. His current term runs to 2023.
But the moves represent the first major break within the governing party and could undermine Mr. Erdogan’s prospects for retaining power.
“They will negatively affect the A.K.P.,” said Ali Bayramoglu, an academic and columnist with close ties to the party.
The two challengers could cause a realignment of the center-right conservative vote that has been loyal to Mr. Erdogan, he added.
They will join an array of opposition parties whose tactical alliance succeeded in defeating Mr. Erdogan’s supporters in five of Turkey’s largest cities in local elections earlier this year, including Ankara and the country’s largest metropolis, Istanbul. His opponents have declared the loss of Istanbul, Mr. Erdogan’s home city and political base, to be the beginning of the end of his 18-year dominance of Turkish politics.
Mr. Erdogan has seen his popularity slide to its lowest level in three years, with a currency crash and economic recession that hit 18 months ago testing his leadership. One recent independent poll showed his popularity dropping to 33 percent from 41 percent in July 2018, a level that could see him struggle to secure the majority vote needed for re-election to the presidency, despite his alliance with the National Movement Party.
The Turkish Army’s incursion into Syria in October, which was popular at home, gave Mr. Erdogan a temporary boost in the polls, but his ratings fell again as Turks suffered economic hardship and resentment grew over growing economic inequality. In announcing the new party Friday, Mr. Davutoglu offered a reversal of much of Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic rule, calling for a return to a parliamentary system, the rule of law and freedom of expression.
Mr. Davutoglu, 60, is an academic who has been an influential ideologue within the A.K.P. and has a significant following around the country. Sidelined by Mr. Erdogan in 2016, he had nevertheless remained loyal to the A.K.P., of which he was a founding member, until June of this year, when he broke publicly with Mr. Erdogan over his handling of the Istanbul election.
After Mr. Erdogan’s candidate for mayor of Istanbul was defeated in March and he tried to have the vote annulled, Mr. Davutoglu published a devastating critique of Mr. Erdogan’s leadership, assailing his handling of the economy, his amassing of powers under the new presidential system and what he described as a takeover of the party by a narrow clique of self-serving actors. Mr. Babacan, 52, is seen as a successful former finance minister and deputy prime minister who oversaw the economic boom of the early Erdogan years. He is casting himself as the steady pair of hands that can guide Turkey out of its economic crisis, and he has been careful to avoid direct criticism of Mr. Erdogan.
Mr. Davutoglu and Mr. Babacan are rivals whose past differences make a joint party impossible, but their efforts are being closely watched to see if they draw support from Mr. Erdogan and tip the balance toward the opposition. Both men aspire to inherit the conservative, religious A.K.P. constituency that Mr. Erdogan has successfully harnessed to stay in power.
In the past, Mr. Erdogan has derided and cajoled those who have tried to break away from the A.K.P. But in a sign of how seriously he regards the latest challenge, he has gone on the offensive, branding the two men as traitors and calling Mr. Davutoglu a swindler over a recent property scandal.
In a weekend speech to a gathering of party officials, Mr. Erdogan accused Mr. Davutoglu, when he was prime minister, of transferring ownership of public land worth more than $400 million to City University, a private college he had founded.
The university used the land as security for a loan from a state bank, Halkbank, but failed to repay the loan, which Mr. Erdogan said amounted to $70 million.
“They are trying to swindle Halkbank,” Mr. Erdogan said, including Mr. Babacan and another former minister in his accusation. “Where is your honesty?”
Mr. Davutoglu hit back by calling on Mr. Erdogan and other public officials to reveal their personal assets.
“The only accusation against me during my term as prime minister is the transfer of land to an educational institution over which I have no personal rights and which I cannot leave to my daughter, my son, my son-in-law or my daughter-in-law,” Mr. Davutoglu said.
The timing of the City University revelations was widely perceived as meant to hurt Mr. Davutoglu as he prepared his political challenge. In Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey, the courts and public banks are perceived to be closely controlled by the presidency.
Yet Mr. Erdogan has also been damaged by the scandal, since it stems from a period when they were all in government together, political analysts said.
Despite the defections, Mr. Erdogan remains the most popular politician in Turkey. He has deftly stirred right-wing, nationalist emotions that run deep, with militaristic ventures in Syria and elsewhere, his calls to restore Turkey to greatness and his frequent challenges to Western powers, said Mr. Bayramoglu, the academic with ties to the A.K.P.