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Silence in the Time of Cholera

On September 29, the global community took an important step in addressing the Civil War and Human Rights Crisis in Yemen.  The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution to set up an independent investigation into human rights abuses by the all three sides involved in the war; the Houthi Rebels, the Hadi Government backed by Saudi Arabia, and Al Qaeda.

“This resolution is a victory for Yemenis whose suffering at the hands of all parties to the conflict has been overlooked by the international community,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research in a statement. “The resolution offers hope for those seeking justice and can serve as a stepping stone towards accountability.”

The resolution was met with resistance from Saudi Arabia, who managed to prevent the United Nations from approving a full international commission inquiry. The inquiry could have led human rights abuses and war crimes to be referred to international criminal courts. The past two years, Saudi Arabia and other gulf states threatened to pull funding from several United Nations programs if they were not kept off a United Nations Report of countries that kill and maim children.

Since the war began in March 2015, an estimated 10,000 civilians have been killed by Saudi Arabia-led bombing campaigns in the region. Due to the airstrikes destroying Yemen’s water infrastructure, a cholera outbreak has plagued the country. So far, the outbreak has affected 750,000 Yemenis and resulted in over 2,000 deaths. That number is expected to increase to 1 million by the end of the year, making it the worst outbreak on record in the world. Due to a blockade of food imports imposed on the country by the Saudi-led coalition, seven million people in Yemen are facing famine and starvation. Nearly 20 million of Yemen’s population of 27 million have no access to safe drinking water.

The United States has been criticized for its role in aiding Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes. In May 2017, five civilians and a child were reportedly killed during a Navy Seal raid. In June 2017, the Associated Press reported, “Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the ‘grill,’ in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire.”  Defense Officials admitted U.S. forces were involved in interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees, but denied involvement in human rights abuses at secret prison camps throughout Yemen.

The Intercept reported on September 18 that the United States Government has been unable to keep track of the refueling missions its providing Saudis for the war in Yemen. “One agency says refueling is continuing, another says it stopped. Apparently this administration can’t get its story straight. There’s either blatant obfuscation, gross incompetence, or both going on,” Kate Kizer, director of policy and advocacy at the Yemen Peace Project, told the Intercept.

The United States has steadily provided weapons to Saudi Arabia and other gulf states involved in the Yemen War over the past few years. Under the Obama Administration, the United States sold more than $115 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia that have been usedin the War in Yemen. The Trump Administration has continued this practice, with $25 billionin weapons deals already lined up. On September 8, the State Department approved a $1 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain, a country involved in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

A few members in congress have attempted to stop the United States’ role in the war in Yemen. Last week, two Republican and two Democrat congressional representatives proposed a bill to stop United States military assistance to Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen, one that has never been authorized by congress. Despite the efforts of a few legislators to bring attention to the United States’ involvement in Yemen, the issue continues to be widely ignored. Though the United States remains complicit in their contributions to the war in Yemen, having turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses there, the recent United Nations decision may now force the World to start paying attention, and start rendering solutions to stop Yemen’s crisis.

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Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1

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